Seven Actionable Tips to Ease Stress While Flying With Your Pet

Jan 20, 2021
Are you preparing to fly with your pet? Taking to the skies in an airplane may seem like a fun adventure for you—but for your pet, flying can be stressful and downright terrifying. We share easy and actionable tips to help ease stress during your flight.

Taking to the skies in an airplane may seem like a fun adventure for you—but for your pet, flying can be stressful and downright terrifying. Still, there are many situations where you may have no choice but to book a flight with your canine or feline friend. Perhaps you're moving, or maybe you're going on vacation and have nobody to look after your pet while you're away.

Regardless, there are some steps you should take to minimize stress for both you and your pet when flying—then you can arrive safely at your destination with your dog, cat, or other small pet.

1. Keep your Pet in the cabin with you

First and foremost, take some time to research airline policies when it comes to flying with a pet.   You really should not book a flight with an airline that requires your pet to be stowed away in the plane's cargo area, as this can be traumatic and dangerous for a nervous animal.

Instead, stick with an airline that will allow your pet to fly with you inside the cabin. Most airlines will have strict policies that require your pet to be confined to a carrier at all times, but this is still preferable to your pet being transported in the plane's cargo bay.

2. Talk to your veterinarian

If you know that your pet tends to be a little high-strung, it doesn't hurt to talk with your veterinarian ahead of time for some specific guidance. Your vet may be able to prescribe an anxiety medication that you can administer before the flight. This can help to calm your pet down and make for a stress-free flight for all involved.

Even if you don't want to go the medication route, your vet will know your pet well enough to offer some specific recommendations. For example, your vet may recommend aromatherapy or even a wearable anxiety vest to help your pet stay calm during the flight.

3. Provide some exercise before boarding

If your pet is tired enough, hopefully he or she will sleep through at least a portion of your flight. If possible, take your dog for a walk around the airport. Depending on where you're flying out of—some airports even offer landscaped dog walks for this purpose.

If your airport isn't particularly pet-friendly, you can still get your pet some exercise before you leave for the airport. Before you leave home take your dog for a long walk or spend some time playing with your cat and its favorite toy.

4. Keep your pet busy with toys and small treats

Even if you won't be able to bring your pet out of his or her carrier during the flight, you can still offer small toys and treats as a distraction. Consider purchasing a few new toys and bring along a bag of your pet's favorite dry kibble so you can offer them throughout your flight. Just be sure not to overfeed your pet to the point that they become ill or need to go potty (it's still a good idea to line your pet's carrier with a potty pad just in case).

5. Bring a comfort item from home

A familiar item, such as a blanket or plush toy, can go a long way in helping your pet feel safer and more comfortable on a flight. Try packing one of these items in your pet's carrier. Ideally, it should be something that your pet uses a lot at home and has his or her scent on it (so definitely don't wash it before you travel!).

6. Focus on your own stress and anxiety

In an unfamiliar situation, your pet will look to you for guidance. If you seem stressed out or anxious, your pet is more likely to be anxious as well. This is why it's so important to be conscious of your own travel-related stress and take measures to keep calm and collected. Even for somebody who loves to fly, the logistics of airline travel can be stress-inducing.

  • Giving yourself plenty of extra time to get to the airport and get checked in
  • Staying hydrated and eating a healthy meal before your flight
  • Practice deep breathing exercises if you're feeling overwhelmed

7. Know and watch for signs of distress

Even when you take all the correct precautions, your pet could still become overwhelmed on a flight. Be sure to educate yourself and watch for signs of serious physical distress in your pet which may include:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Aggression
  • Involuntary yawning
  • Shaking or trembling

If your pet displays any of these signs, calm your pet in whatever way you can. If symptoms persist after your plane has landed, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

The final word on flying with a pet

Some pets do better than others when it comes to flying. By following these tips you can equip your pet for a stress-free flight. Looking for pet-friendly flights to and from the Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg areas? Contact PIE and its airlines.