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Flying with your Pet

Flying with a pet as cargo is a stressful experience for both the dog and their human.

The key is doing your homework, ensuring both you and your dog are prepared for the journey, and communicating with the airline staff. Requirements for flying with pets as cargo vary among airlines, but the content below provides some points to think about.

Most major airlines allow pets to fly as cargo but double check that they do before booking your flight.

Cargo Hold Temperature and Pressure

One of the first questions to ask the airline carrier is whether the cargo hold, transportation vehicle, and holding areas are climate controlled. Most pet owners only think about the cargo hold, but your dog will be in other locations throughout the journey.

Tell every staff member you can that you are traveling with your dog: the check in staff, flight attendant, and even pilot if you see them. The more people who know that your dog is in the cargo hold, the better.

This way, they are more observant of the temperature or any other malfunctions that might happen enroute.

Preparing your dog for Air Travel

Your dog may require some training and/or veterinary visits prior to your departure. You want to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day of your flight. Don’t assume that your dog will just be ok with certain situations. Practice, practice, practice!

Visit your veterinarian

Most airlines will require a health certificate as well as vaccination records stating that your pet is in good enough health to travel. You will keep this on hand and present it to the staff during check in.

Be sure to check if there is an expiration date on the health certificate. A common standard is 10 days. 

If you’re flying internationally with your dog, then you will require even more paperwork. Make sure you have all the documentation available and that appointments are made well in advance.

Crate Training

If your dog isn’t already crate trained before deciding to take them on a flight, start working with them immediately. The crate will be their safe space and they need to love their kennel well before your departure date. 

Trim their Nails

Long nails can result in injuries if your dog panics and attempts to escape from the kennel. Plan a nail trim a day or two before the flight. Long nails can get caught on the door or other openings of the kennel if they try to scratch their way out.

ID Tags and Contact Information

Make sure that your dog’s ID tag and microchip information are up to date and easily identifiable on both your dog and their crate. A flat tag like a Road ID that slides directly onto your dog’s collar (image below) as opposed to a dangling tag, will reduce risk of the tag getting caught on something.

You can use either a kennel door name tag that attaches to the outside of the kennel or write your contact information directly onto the crate with a Permanent Marker. You’ll want this in a second location in case your dog’s collar becomes removed during the flight.


If time allows before your flight, take your dog for a nice long run or walk to tire them out for the long day. You can also combine a shorter walk with brain games. Mental stimulation is really tiring for dogs and can be a great way to tire them out before a long day of travel.

Food and Water

This is where things can get a little more confusing. Some airlines require that you secure a food and water bowl to the kennel. Others ask you not do so. Some ask you to attach food to the outside of the kennel, so it can just be poured in without having to open the door.

As with all requirements, check the rules with the airline well in advance of your departure date to make sure you have all the accessories you need.

Just before checking in for the flight, allow your dog to go potty outside the terminal. It can be tough to find grass at airports, so you may want to stop at a nearby park if your dog isn’t used to ‘going’ on cement.

Packing List for Flying with a Dog as Cargo

Your dog cargo travel kit should include the items required by your airline.

In addition to those items, carry on your person other accessories, including:

  • Leash
  • Poop bags
  • Travel Food and Water Bowls
  • Dog food
  • Paperwork


IATA Compliant Pet Crate

Before purchasing a kennel for your flight, double check with airline sizing requirements. These are very specific, and you will NOT be permitted to fly if they do not match the standards. The IATA is a great place to start.

Common pet crate regulations dictate that your pet must be able to:

  • Turn around freely in a standing position
  • Stand and sit upright
  • Fully lie down in a comfortable position


If you need guidance selecting a dog kennel for flying, you can have a look at the Gateway IATA Compliant Pet Carrier. https://www.mcmac.co.za/collections/plastic-carriers/products/gateway-carrier

Below some features and tips on the Gateway Carrier.

Measure Your Dog

Grab your measuring tape! Have your dog stand.
A: Measure from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.
B: Measure from the top of the shoulders until the floor. 
C: Measure the width from shoulder to shoulder.
D: Measure from the top of the head until the floor.

Find the Perfect Size

Use your dog measurements to find the perfect Gateway kennel:
A + 1/2 B: The length equals your dogs A measurement + 1/2 B measurement.
2 x C: The width should be twice the measurements from shoulder to shoulder.
D: The height should be at least the same as the height of your dog.

Tip: Leave enough room for your dog to stand up and turnaround.

Travel Safe & Secure

  • IATA regulated, ready for take-off.
  • Safe, sturdy and easy assembly with delivered nuts and bolts.
  • Holes on every corner to attach zip-ties.
  • Ventilation openings are nose and paw proof. 
  • Steel front door with metal-enclosed latch for secure containment.
  • Wheels on the Gateway Giant and Jumbo are removable.
  • Feeding or watering bowl can be attached to the product.
  • Kennel can be labelled with airline required stickers and certifications.

Kennel training is crucial for your pet. We recommend starting with kennel training at least 8-weeks before your travel.

Experience Comfort

  • Continuous 360º fresh airflow. 
  • Front handle for easy manoeuvrability.
  • Built-in side handles for lifting the kennel easily.
  • Gateway Giant and Jumbo comes with a set of wheels.
  • Rounded and smooth inside, with a seamless base to prevent leaks.
  • Bolts are designed for professional screwdrivers.
  • Elevated bottom keeps your pet dry in case of an accident.
  • Easy to clean with warm soapy water.


Crate Pad

This is something you should already have for your dog’s crate. You’re looking for a rectangular bed or mattress that is comfortable for long periods of time.


Puppy Pads

In case of a potty accident, a puppy pad will help absorb any liquid and keep your pet a bit more comfortable. Place this on top of their bed, so they can keep their bed dry if they do pee mid-flight. Look for super absorbent training pads that are quick drying.


Food and Water Bowls

As mentioned earlier, different airlines have different rules for food and water dishes.

For those who do require food and water bowls, look for those that mount to either the inside or outside of the kennel with wing nuts.

For a water dispenser, look for one like those used for hamsters that attach to the outside of the kennel and have a straw directed into the inside of the kennel. You’ll have to teach your dog how to use this kind of dispenser before departure.


Cable/Zip Ties

This may seem like a random piece of gear you’ll need to fly with your dog, but many airlines require that dog owners zip tie the kennel door shut.

Some will provide zip ties at check in, but prefer that travellers bring their own.

Live Animal Stickers and Tags

While not always necessary, kennel stickers indicating a live animal will caution handlers to be more gentle with your dog as they are shuffled around.

You may not want your furr baby to miss out on a nice holiday, but always consider what is best for them.

Excerpts from Long Haul Trekkers Blog