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Published: Feb 28, 2012

United Airlines recently changed its policy regarding traveling with pets as part of a merger with Continental Airlines. Under this switch, the airline will use Continental's program called PetSafe, in which pets will travel as cargo rather than checked luggage.  According to company spokeswoman Mary Ryan, this change means “pets will now have a dedicated staff and temperature-controlled vans instead of the inhospitable baggage compartment”.  Additionally, the program provides detailed tracking of animals with features that ensure their happiness and safety, allowing owners to fly knowing their canine companion is also comfortable.  The downside of this program is the cost—it will cost significantly more to travel with your pet if it is shipped as cargo.  When possible, if you have a small pet and the airline allows for it to travel inside the airplane, this is still likely the best option.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, it is important for owners to prepare for air travel with a dog.  You should always have your dog examined by a veterinarian before taking a trip that involves flying. In addition to making sure your pet has all necessary dog vaccinations for your trip, the vet can determine whether dogs have a condition that may pose risks during travel.

Canines with heart or kidney disease, or short-nosed breeds like Pugs and English bulldogs can be at risk during airline travel, the news source reports. Even if your dog is perfectly healthy, VCA recommends trying to book direct flights so as to avoid connections and layovers - this is where many pets get lost with baggage, or have to sit out in extreme weather or temperatures. You can also improve your pet's treatment on the plane by booking at a time that is not extremely busy - that way, airline personnel will have extra time to handle your dog.