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Commercial airlines transport more than two million pets each year. Dogs are, by far, more frequent fliers than cats. Our Pet Pro, Luciano Aguilar, shares how to make your dog’s next flight as safe and comfortable as it can be.

Traveling by air has its own set of challenges, so bringing a dog into the mix can really get complicated. Getting a dog onboard a plane definitely takes planning and preparation. Airlines vary in policies on transporting pets. You don’t want to find out after the fact that it’s going to be very difficult or impossible to take your pet with you.

Here’s what you need to find out from the airline in advance:

• Do they allow dogs on their flights?

• Can you bring your dog as carry-on or will he have to travel as cargo?

• What types of pet carriers does the airline accept?

• What time should you arrive at the airport to check him in?

• It can be as much as three hours before take-off. Where is cargo check-in located? It’s often in a different area of the airport.

Airlines will charge you an extra fee. The amount depends on whether your pet rides as carry-on or cargo. Fees vary from airline to airline.

Generally, you can carry on a small dog that fits in a soft carrier and that can be stowed under the seat in front of you during takeoff and landing. At no time are carry-on dogs allowed to wander the aisles. And keep in mind, dogs can get fussy. Nobody likes a crying baby on a plane, but it’s kind of expected. A barking or whining dog is not. Be prepared to get some dirty looks or complaints from other passengers if you can’t control your dog.

Temperatures in the plane’s cargo hold can get uncomfortably hot. Some airlines only let pets fly in the cooler months or during certain times of the day in the warmer months.

When preparing your dog’s kennel for air travel, you want to put some type of bedding in it. You can use some newspaper or a blanket to make his flight a little more comfortable. It’s a good idea to clip your dog’s nails before you travel so they won’t snag on anything. Make sure the kennel is well labeled with your dog’s name and your name, address and phone number. Cargo or carry-on, airlines require a health certificate from a veterinarian declaring that your dog is fit to fly.

Don’t forget to bring a leash and keep it with you. And have a recent photo of your dog just in case, for whatever strange reason, he goes missing. Be sure to walk your dog before checking in and as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Like parents of small children, you have to decide if flying with your dog is something you really want to do.

Consider the added expense, effort and anxiety it can cause and decide what’s best for you — and for your dog!

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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