06/15/2015 04:53 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT

Flight tips for furry friends: Five tips for getting your pets ready for takeoff

TORONTO - Some pet owners taking to the skies this summer may be bringing their furry family members along for the ride.

But as Stephen Wicary recently discovered, even the best-laid plans can't guard against potential travel hiccups.

The Ottawa-based journalist and his wife were reunited with their dog, Bruno, who had been mistakenly left on a Montreal-bound flight arriving from Cuba and was returned to the island country.

Here are five tips on preparing pets for takeoff.


Veterinarians can advise on which vaccines and medications are needed, said Dr. Berney Pukay, Ontario councillor for the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Most places have the ability to read identification microchips implanted in pets. Pukay said owners can ask vets if they have international microchips. If not, owners can inquire how a foreign country would be able to access the information.

Pukay said it's also important to obtain a copy of the pet's medical records in case of emergency.

He counselled against medicating pets for flights.

"As veterinarians, we discourage any kind of chemical sedation or tranquillization because it inhibits their ability to respond to stress," said Pukay, who chairs the veterinary advisory board of Petsecure, a Canadian pet health insurance company.

Pukay advised against feeding pets a few hours before flying, which makes them more prone to motion sickness. Owners should ensure they have enough water on board and are well hydrated.


Sonja Lishchynski and her partner, Stefan Dumas, have flown frequently with their long-haired chihuahua, Montecristo.

Whether dogs are travelling in-cabin or cargo, she said it's key they're comfortable in their carriers.

"Get your pets to associate its carrier with a happy place. This is somewhere where they like to be, where they choose to go to of their own accord," said Lishchynski, founder of Montecristo Travels, an Ottawa-based blog offering guidance on international travel with small dogs.

When they first purchased Montecristo's carrier, they placed it in the open with treats tucked inside, she recalled. He would occasionally sleep there. Eventually they took him on the road to get used to travelling in the carrier.

Pukay said the crate should be large enough for pets to turn comfortably — but not too big that they get bounced around.


Pukay and Lishchynski said it's important to check prior to takeoff that pets are on board. That can include putting in a request with the flight crew, or remaining with pets until the last minute while crates are loaded.

"That also means they will be first off, and that minimizes the stress," said Pukay.


Lishchynski recommended breaking up flights into smaller segments.

When travelling to Greece, she flew from Ottawa to Montreal for a two-hour layover. After three days in Paris, they continued to Athens.

"It might take you a little longer to get there, but everyone will be happier in the long run," said Lishchynski.

She recommended owners consider booking flights later in the day. In the mornings, dogs should have had plenty to eat and drink and be taken for a long walk to tire them out.

"That way, they'll likely sleep when they've arrived at their destination."


Lishchynski said owners may consider purchasing a GPS collar to help track their pets.

Pukay also recommended keeping photos of pets readily available.

"Nowadays it's not so serious because you have all the selfies on your iPhone and you can dig one up. But if you can get a body shot and a headshot of your pet, if your pet gets separated you can put that right on a poster."