People flying with chihuahuas can simply take them into the cabin in their carry-on luggage. But what if you want your Great Dane to accompany you on your journey?
Flying with a large dog comes with certain challenges, but nothing should worry you as you can safely transport them as cargo if you prepare them beforehand.
Here is all you need to know to have a comfortable trip!
Flying With a Large Dog: Is It Doable?
While not impossible, traveling with a large dog can be a challenge unless you and your pawsome pet are adequately prepared for the trip by checking off the list below.
1. Review the airline’s pet transport regulations
While airlines typically transport large animals, your dog’s weight will determine whether you can take it with you or you will have to ship it separately with a cargo plane.
Furthermore, even if you are sharing the same flight, you can only take your furry friend in the cabin with you as long as it weighs below a certain limit (usually 20 pounds), its crate is sufficiently roomy and ventilated, and it can fit under the seat in front of you. Conversely, medium-to-large dogs have to be stored in the cargo area as baggage.
In any case, your dog must be at least eight weeks old, weaned, and sufficiently calm and healthy—proven with the corresponding health and vaccination certificates.
Depending on the carrier, additional requirements also apply. For instance, Alaska Airlines will only transport harmless animals that have been properly fed before transit and have easy access to food and water in their containers.
Note: Federal regulations prohibit airlines from transporting pets in extremely cold and hot temperatures (below 45 and above 85 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Choose Between Pet Cargo vs Checked Baggage
When traveling with large dogs, you’ll either have to check them as baggage on the same flight as yours or have them travel separately in a pet cargo plane.
Most owners choose the former option since they don’t want to be separated from their pets and want to be reunited with them the moment they get off the plane.
However, many pet transport services, such as PetRelocation, recommend transporting your large doggo via a cargo plane since it is the safer alternative.
For instance, they can be monitored easily since they travel on a separate ticket, will be stored in a pressurized and warm area at all times, will never be left waiting on the tarmac, will be handled by specialized staff, and they’ll be the first on and off the plane.
Note: If your dog and its carrier are above a certain weight threshold, they will not be allowed even to be checked as baggage and will have to travel separately in a cargo plane.
3. Ensure your dog is vaccinated properly
Before going on its trip, your globetrotting doggo must be thoroughly checked by a veterinarian and deemed healthy and free of any spreadable diseases.
That way, you will receive the necessary health and vaccination certificates (especially against rabies), which airlines require you to get within 10 days of your journey.
Since most health certificates last for 30 days, you may have to visit a vet to meet the return flight requirements if your journey is longer than that.
If your dog is suffering from medical issues, bring the necessary medications and prescriptions and consult with the vet about the risks and solutions to anxiety attacks.
Note: Some airlines disallow traveling with brachycephalic (short-muzzled) breeds since they have trouble breathing at high altitudes and in hot and humid environments.
3. Get a pet-friendly travel kit
Just as you pack your own luggage, you should also prepare a kit for your furry friend that will contain all its trinkets, toiletries, and other necessities, including:
- Leash and collar
- Various games and toys
- Food and water bowl
- Water and snacks
- Adequate poop bags
- Baby wipes and paper towels
- Your dog’s medications
- An approved carrier
When it comes to the traveling crate, most airlines impose certain restrictions on its size and build. For example, the carrier must be ventilated on two opposing sides, have a leak-proof bottom, and animals must be able to stand, move, and lie comfortably in it.
4. Prepare your dog for the flight
Before traveling anywhere with a pet, you should (and on some occasions must) get it microchipped so you are able to locate it anywhere and at any time.
On travel day, feed your dog several hours before getting to the airport and allow it to relieve itself, especially if you have scheduled a long flight.
Also, if you have an especially energetic and/or anxious doggo, take it for a walk to calm it down and tire it out so it can easily sleep on the plane.
When all is said and done, put your dog in its crate along with its favorite toys and head for the airport several hours earlier than usual. That way, you will have plenty of time to check in and take the dog to a separate drop-off location if it’s traveling as cargo.
In any case, if you have an older dog or one suffering from a serious medical condition, air travel will be challenging as it takes a toll on its physical and emotional well-being, so consider taking it with you only when absolutely necessary.
Expert tip: Put up a current photo of your dog and your contact information on the crate and keep a photo in your phone as well in case the airline “misplaces” your loyal companion or someone steals it since dog thefts have been on the rise in recent years.
5. Schedule your flight early
companies require you to schedule early and you should od so since they allow only a specific number of kennels on board
- When making your reservations, you must make reservations for your dog. There are restrictions on the number of animals permitted on each flight. They are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.”
- Book a layover flight if necessary: This is especially important if the destination requires a more extended flight time lasting 10+ hours. Book a flight that will allow you enough time to take your dog out for a potty break and some stretching.
Airlines That Allow Large Dogs in Cargo
Whether traveling national or international, there aren’t many airlines that allow large dogs in the cabin, but a few allow them in cargo. However, there are some restrictions and limitations that you need to be aware of. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.
1. Alaska Airlines
When traveling with Alaska Airlines, large dogs are defined as those weighing more than 20 lbs. The dog must have a health certificate dated within ten days of the outward journey and 30 days of the return journey to ensure it’s free of fleas, ticks, infectious diseases, etc.
Your pup must also be at least eight weeks old. Some breed-specific restrictions for dogs with a short snout (brachycephalic breeds) indicate they’re not allowed in cargo. The cost of traveling with a dog in either cargo or cabin is $100 each way.
2. American Airlines
There is no weight limit for dogs traveling in cargo. However, there are additional fees that you must pay. The costs get calculated when you book your flight. You can’t travel with a pet if it’s too hot outside (above 85° F). Pets not traveling in the cabin can’t travel to/through/from Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, or Palm Springs from May 1–September 30th.
3. Hawaiian Airlines
When traveling in cargo, there are restrictions on canine kennels and weight. Pets are not permitted to travel as checked luggage or cargo on some flights between April and October.
Also, pets are not allowed to travel if the temperature at the starting point, the destination, or connecting airport is below 20°F or over 85°F. Traveling from Hawaii to North America and vice versa costs $225.
These are just a few cost-effective airlines that allow large dogs in cargo. Since restrictions tend to change frequently, checking the airline’s charge before booking your flight is always best.
Flying with a large dog can be unsettling as you would most likely worry about your furry friend being all alone in the plane’s cargo hold, but there are ways to make the experience comfortable. At the end of the day, you must carefully review the relevant airline policies and properly prepare your doggo for the trip when making your travel plans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dogs fly on planes?
Yes, dogs can fly on planes, regardless of their weight, but you have to pay extra fees, and your dog must meet certain weight requirements if you want to take it with you.
What is the largest dog you can take on a plane?
Your dog can travel with you as long as it is under a specific weight limit, which varies from airline to airline. For instance, Air Canada allows you to check your dog as baggage if it weighs up to 100 pounds, but Hawaiian Airlines puts the limit at 70 pounds.
How much does it cost to fly a large dog?
Flying with a large dog comes with additional costs that vary based on several factors, such as your destination, the airline, and the dog’s weight. For U.S. domestic flights, you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 to $400 for a one-way ticket for an 80-pound dog.