Summer Travel Guide

High temperatures pose risks for your dog whether you travel by car or plane. Learn essential information to ensure a smooth trip.

By Liz Palika |

Bashir, my 7-year-old Australian Shepherd, is a well-traveled performance dog. Although I try to schedule travel during the cooler months, we sometimes travel in the summer. Whether you and your dog travel by car or airplane, take special care to keep your dog safe, especially in the summer heat.

Traveling by plane
More than 2 million dogs, cats and other animals are transported by air every year. Many pets, show dogs, performance sports dogs and working dogs travel by airplane – in baggage or in the cabin – and arrive safely at their destination. However, accidents can happen.

The United States Department of Transportation requires airlines to report incidents involving pets. From May 2005 through November 2011, 164 dogs died, nine were lost and 67 were injured. One of those injured was later euthanized. The cause of injury or death varies. In several reported instances, a dog’s crate in the baggage hold was bounced around during flight thereby injuring the dog. In other cases, the crate was opened (on purpose or by accident) and the dog escaped.

Temperature. Heat has caused many deaths. On August 5, 2010, CNN reported that seven dogs died on an American Airlines flight from Tulsa, Okla., to Chicago. Although the American Airlines website states that dogs will not be shipped when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, the dogs were loaded on the plane when the temperature at Tulsa International Airlines was 86 degrees.

Although the passenger cabin and baggage hold where pets travel are both air conditioned and heated depending on the weather, the air circulation is turned down or off before and after a flight. Therefore, when the weather is warm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates air transportation of live animals within the United States, recommends flying at night, in the early morning or late evening. The airline might also require a statement from your veterinarian stating your dog is acclimated to the heat. However, airlines are allowed to make more stringent restrictions than the USDA’s and because of the risk due to heat, most will not allow dogs to fly at all when the temperature is above 85 to 95 degrees.

Breed-specific restrictions. Airline travel is particularly dangerous for brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs, such as the Bulldog and Pug. PetFlight.com, a website that provides information about airline travel for pets, shows that of the 164 dogs that died between 2005 and 2011, 90 were brachycephalic breeds.

Most airlines have additional restrictions for brachycephalic breeds. Alaska Airlines, for example, allows these breeds, but only with the owner acknowledging the risk. United Airlines doesn’t accept these dogs at all, either in the cabin or in baggage, from June 1 through September 30. The breeds included in these restrictions vary according to the airline but usually include the Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chinese Shar-Pei, French Bulldog, Pug and Shih Tzu.

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