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Prepare yourself, your pet for air travel

Are you planning to fly with your pet this holiday season? Web site tripswithpets.com, an online guide for pet travel, offers some tips on a successful journey. Times staff writer

First, a visit to the vet. Before you begin your trip, be sure that your pet is ready for the journey. This means a visit to the vet for a medical checkup and to ensure that your pet is up-to-date with all necessary vaccinations. Be sure to tell your vet about your plans to travel by air. Your vet can recommend to you whether your pet is medically prepared for the trip. You must also take into consideration the demeanor and temperament of your pet when determining whether airline travel is appropriate.

Get a certificate. During your pretrip vet appointment, ask your vet to issue a health certificate for your pet. This typically needs to be dated within 10 days of departure. Carry this with you while traveling with your pet, as it may be required at different points throughout your travel. Also, bring along a current photo of your pet. This will make it easier for others to help you find your pet should your pet get separated from you.

Give yourself extra time. Have everything packed early and leave early to allow plenty of time to deal with normal air travel as well as your pet's needs. Keep yourself calm before the flight as pets sense your stress and anxiety.

Select the right airline approved pet carrier. Carriers are available in both hard-sided and soft-sided. Soft-sided carriers are more suitable for carry-on and tend to fit better under the seat. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations as far as the appropriate size carrier for your pet. The proper size carrier should allow your pet to be able to lie down comfortably, stand up and turn around. Make sure there's proper ventilation and comfort. Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his or her stress during travel.

Flight schedule. Consider booking a nonpeak flight, which typically means fewer passengers and more cabin room. This will help ease potential stress for your pet. If you can, use direct flights. Changing planes with your pet may cause undue stress on your pet, particularly if layover time is not adequate for a pet walk and bathroom break.

Always travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded below the cabin.

Do not ship pug-nosed dogs or cats such as Pekingese, chow chows and Persians in the cargo hold. These breeds have short nasal passages that leave them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heatstroke in cargo holds. Choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes, particularly if your pet is traveling below the cabin.

Have proper ID. Fit your pet with a collar that can't get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar: a permanent ID with your name, home address and telephone number and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached. Affix a travel label to the carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.

Prevention. Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier's door, holes and other crevices.

Prescription. Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your vet understands that the prescription is for air travel.

Food and water. Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before air travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet's kennel. A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.

Carry a leash with you so that you may walk your pet before check-in and after arrival. Do not place the leash inside the kennel or attach it outside of the kennel

When you get there. When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.

Prepare yourself, your pet for air travel 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2009 4:45pm]

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