A dog is lying on a suitcase with things.

How to Prepare for A Flight with Your ESA Pet: 9 Things to Do

5 min read

Traveling by plane is a pleasant experience for most people but there are also ones who suffer from fears and anxieties — in this case, taking an emotional support animal with you can make a huge difference. For this experience to be comfortable for you, your pet, and airline employees, it’s important to follow some simple steps before you board the plane. In this post, we’ll be mostly talking about traveling with dogs but these rules apply for most of the other pets as well.

Inform Your Airline

To make sure everything goes smoothly at the airport, it’s better to inform your airline that you are going to travel with an ESA in advance so that everything is prepared for you two. Provide all the details about your pet such as breed and size as well as the needed documentation. In most cases, you’ll need a special ESA letter that confirms your animal is an ESA and allows taking it in the cabin — otherwise, it will have to travel in the baggage area and it’s not what we want in this case.

Get Some Exercise

A dog is running on the grass.
It's good to let the dog play before the flight to make it fall asleep or rest during the flight.

A good dog in a plane cabin is a sleeping dog. No one wants to travel with a loud pet jumping around and asking for attention, even though it might be cute for the first five minutes. That’s why it’s better if you take your pet for a long exhausting walk before your flight — a couple of hours in a park will do the job and your ESA will spend most of the time up in the air quietly sleeping under the front seat.

Cut Down Food

The best thing you can do to make this flight comfortable is to not feed your dog before the trip. If your flight is in the morning, skip the breakfast completely and just give your pet a little bit of water — they’ll be rewarded with their favorite treats when you land. If you are traveling in the evening, make sure you only give your pet some light food during the day. Thus, you’ll eliminate chances of motion sickness and toilet-related problems during the flight.

Avoid New Treats

When it comes to traveling with an emotional support animal, it’s better to start your preparations a couple of days before. Stick to your pet’s regular diet and don’t introduce any new foods or treats even if you want to cheer your pet up before the long trip. Believe us, indigestion is not something you and your pet want to experience during a 5-hour flight.

Consult a Vet

You might not be the only one anxious during the flight but while you are having an ESA for this reason, your pet might need some help too. If you know that your pet is prone to anxiety or is too active to take a plane comfortably, you might want to consult a vet and get some kind of mildly sedative medication for your ESA. Never try to medicate your pet with over-the-counter sedatives for humans as you can’t define the dosage properly and might end up with a pet so drugged that walking through the airport will become a problem — let alone the fact that it’s bad for the pet’s health.

Pack a Bag

A dog is sitting near the suitcase on a yellow background.
Packing a separate bag for your dog may be a very good idea.

And we are not talking about your luggage here. You’ll need a separate bag with everything your pet might need during the flight. The basic set of travel essentials for a flight with an ESA includes:

  • A leash. You’ll need to have your pet leashed during the whole flight as it’s required by most of the airlines’ rules;
  • A warm blanket you took from your home. It will warm your four-legged buddy up in case it gets too cold in a plane and will provide additional comfort with all the familiar smells;
  • Some pee pads in case you’ve overdone with water before your flight and now your pet really needs to pee. Use them in the plane’s lavatory or before the security stands after you land. Some airports now also have special “pet relieving places” — look them up;
  • A collapsible bowl with some ice cubes in case your pet gets thirsty. But remember that it’s important to limit the amount of water consumed by your ESA;
  • A thunder shirt if your dog is anxious or never took a plane before. Thunder shirts gently “squeeze” a dog, giving them a hug-like experience;
  • Your pet’s favorite toy as you are not the only one who wants to be entertained during a long flight;
  • Some napkins, paper towels, and a plastic garbage bag just in case.

Get a Bath

One of the airlines’ common requirements for the ESAs to be allowed onboard is for a pet to be clean so make sure you give your dog or cat a nice bath a day before your flight. Remember that pets with visible dirt or grease might be declined entering the plane.

Practice Commands

Even though special training is not obligatory for emotional support animals (unlike service ones), it’s better if your pet is still properly trained and knows how to behave in public places. Doing the whole agility program is not necessary but knowing some basic commands like “sit”, “wait”, and “quiet” will make a huge difference both for you and those traveling with you and your pet.

Arrive Early

A man is carrying his bag and a dog in a cage in hands.
If you arrive early, you will have enough time to go through all procedures with no anxiety.

When you have everything prepared and is now ready to go, it’s recommended to keep heading to the airport earlier than you’d do without your ESA. It will be more convenient for everyone if you arrive early and have enough time to go through all the necessary procedures with no hurry and anxiety.

All in all, traveling with a pet is a great experience as you can share all the experience with someone you love and minimize negative emotions if taking a plane is something that brings you anxiety.

by GetESA

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