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Published: Dec 28, 2012

Whether you are moving across the world or taking an extended vacation across the country, bringing your canine companion along usually means shipping her or checking her in as cargo on a plane. If she is not small enough to take into the cabin with you, airplane travel with your dog might seem like an upsetting prospect, and for good reason - according to VCA Animal Hospitals, temperatures in the cargo holds can drop or rise to extremes, and it may be frightening for the animal.

While it's a good idea to avoid shipping your pet if possible, airlines and governments have many rules and regulations in place for traveling with your dog to ensure that pets can fly safely and arrive at their owner's destination.

You have to follow all the rules
According to Animal Planet, the number of rules and regulations for shipping a pet are enough to make any human's head spin. While this is a good thing - it means someone is making sure animals are safe and comfortable during their journey - it might be overwhelming. The news source recommends owners check out the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association to find a reputable pet shipping company that will take care of all the details.

You will also want to familiarize yourself with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which enforces acts related to animal welfare - such as shipping in a humane manner. However, if you are traveling to another country with your dog, you should check with that nation's embassy consulate about laws relating to bringing animals into the country - some might require vaccinations or a quarantine period.

You need to schedule a vet visit
Most airlines (or embassies) will require that dogs traveling as cargo have notes from veterinarians stating that they are in good enough health to travel. To get such a note, your dog will most likely need a full examination, and might have to get additional dog vaccinations, depending on her status and the requirements of your destination. VCA Animal Hospitals recommends owners take written documentation of their dogs' vaccinations with them on the trip.

What can I do to ensure my dog is safe during the flight?
It's always a good idea to book direct flights at non-peak hours when you are traveling with a pet, according to VCA. Avoiding layovers means there are fewer chances for your dog to get lost in transit, and means she will spend the least amount of time possible in her crate. Plus, traveling at non-peak hours gives the airline personnel more time to handle your dog.

Although it is tempting to give your dog a nice big meal and maybe a sedating medication, Animal Planet advises owners to avoid any type of sedative drugs for their dogs before a flight, because they can have unexpected effects when the animal is in the pressurized cargo hold. Feeding a dog is required before a flight, but avoid a massive meal to prevent dog vomiting during the trip. Mark the time of your pet's last meal on her crate, since airline personnel are required to give pets food every 24 hours and water every 12 hours.