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Traveling by air with your dog can be tricky. The first essential piece of equipment you'll need is a suitable dog crate, but before you look at transport dog crates, you should make sure there are no alternatives to transporting your dog by air. Sometimes it is the only option, and if that is your situation, you should try to make the trip as worry free for your dog as possible.

You've probably heard about dogs becoming injured, lost or even of dogs dying when traveling by airplane. The majority of dog air trips are free from complications of any kind, but you do not want to take any risks when transporting your dog by airplane. Preparation is therefore very important.

Before buying your airline tickets or selecting your transport dog crate, you should call the airline and find out their current rules and regulations in relation to pet travel. The general rules relating to pet travel, governed by federal regulations, state that your dog should be no less than 8 weeks old and have been weaned for no less than 5 days before the date of travel.

Large dogs have no choice but to travel in the cargo section of the airplane, in transport dog crates. The cargo section unfortunately has neither air conditioning nor heating, which can make for a pretty uncomfortable experience for dogs. Small dogs may be a little luckier. If they're under 15 pounds, they may be accepted in the passenger compartment of the airplane, traveling in transport dog crates or other types of pet carriers that will fit under your seat.

Following are some further precautions to be taken when traveling by air with your dog:

- stop-overs and transfers extend the journey for your dog, so opt for a direct flight wherever you can.

- try to minimize unexpected delays by confirming your flight before you leave home. That way you'll know in advance of changes to the expected departure time.

- take your dog for a walk shortly before you leave for the airport.

- will your dog need food during the flight? Ask your vet well in advance. Generally pet owners are advised to ensure that their dog starts the flight with an empty stomach, but with long flights food may be required, and it will vary depending upon your dog's usual feeding schedule, your dog's usual food, and your dog's size and age.

- ensure that plenty of water will be available to your dog during the flight to prevent dehydration.

- it's good practise to plan to arrive early at the airport. This is especially important when you're traveling with a pet, as there are more things that can hold you up.

- toilet your dog just before you place him in the transport dog crate if at all possible. Enquire in advance whether there are facilities for your dog to toilet at the airport. If not, get your dog to go immediately prior to leaving for the airport, or stop en route to the airport just before you get there.

- get ready for your flight before you leave for the airport. Take magazines or reading material and activities for your kids with you so you don't need to spend time shopping at the airport. It's important that you spend all the time you can prior to boarding the plane with your dog. If possible, put your dog into the transport dog crate yourself (as opposed to airport staff doing this) and if it's allowed, take your dog to the gate yourself as well.

- tell your flight attendant as soon as you board the plane that you have a dog in the cargo area.

- when you land, disembark from the plane as promptly as you can, and go directly to the baggage claim area to claim your dog as soon as he is taken off the plane.

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