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K-State Veterinarian says think twice before flying with your pet

When it comes to taking a pet along on an airplane flight, pet owners should take several factors into consideration, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

"Air flight can be just as traumatic for a pet as riding in a car," said Kathy Gaughan, assistant professor of clinical sciences.

"Pets with health problems may not be good candidates for travel, particularly if they suffer from heart problems or ear infections," she said. "You also should check with your veterinarian first for a clearance for your pet to fly. Your airline will most likely want proof that your pet is healthy."

Where the pet is placed on the plane also is an important factor to consider, Gaughan said. "If the animal can fly in the passenger cabin, it may be less stressful because there is no separation from the owner and the cabin is temperature controlled," she said.

It's a different matter in cargo areas.

"Airlines have temperature restrictions in their cargo areas. That means they will not fly a pet in a cargo area when it's above or below specific temperatures," Gaughan said. The restrictions are to keep animals from suffocating when cargo holds become too warm or from being exposed to freezing temperatures.

Airlines limit the number of animals allowed in the passenger cabin, Gaughan said. The animal's size is also a factor, since its kennel or holding container must be able to fit under a passenger seat if flying in the cabin. The animal must remain in the kennel or holding container throughout the flight, whether in the cabin or cargo area.

The length of your trip should be considered before deciding to take your pet along, Gaughan said.

"For a quick weekend trip in which you will be on the go the entire time and won't have much time to spend with your pet, the animal would probably be better off left at home with a pet sitter or a neighbor, or at a boarding facility," she said.

"For extended stays, taking a pet along is a reasonable option as long as all the details on the other end are worked out in advance," Gaughan said. "Consider the place you are staying, the presence of other pets in that place and your pet's attitude regarding new situations, new people or new pets."

Most airlines have policies on animal transportation. The federal government also has several regulations airlines must follow, including a new monthly requirement that airlines report on animals that die, get injured or become lost while in their care.

Pet owners with questions about transporting an animal by airplane should contact their air carrier, Gaughan said.