Air travel is an interesting topic of conversation for German Shepherds and big dogs on planes.
On one hand, German Shepherds and other big dogs are known to actually jump out of planes and helicopters in the course of military operations, which suggests they are extremely adaptable and versatile to different conditions.
One the other hand, commercial flying with big dogs on planes can be risky to their health.
So, let’s discuss the factors involved, risks and plane travel tips and advice for flying German Shepherds and big dogs on planes, for frequent travellers and those less experienced with plane travel.
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
German Shepherd Plane Travel Tips: Can You Take Big Dogs On Planes?
A Few Things First…
Let’s begin by looking at some commercial flying and plane statistics to put things in perspective…
Smithsonianmag.com reports that in 2012, 29 pets died, 26 were injured, and one was lost – shortly before, during or shortly after commercial flights in the US.
In context, this is out of the 2 million animals that the US Department of Transportation says travel on commercial flights each year. As a percentage of total flights, the death and injury numbers seem low.
It should be added though that dogs being shipped for a commercial purpose (like being bought from a breeder and flown to you), do not need to be reported if injured or if they die, because they are not classified as a pet at that point.
You might avoid buying animals that have to be plane shipped.
With the numbers above, it could be said that flying pets and big dogs on planes has its risks (although any form of travel, even car travel, has its risks), and it is up to the individual to make a decision based on the information they have available to them.
If plane travel is not necessary, it is probably an unnecessary risk you take for the dog’s health and well being, but sometimes there is no other option.
Pre Flight Checklist: For Taking German Shepherds and Big Dogs On Planes
1) Check With Airline
2) Check With Your Destination
Check with your destination (be it a camp site, national park, hotel, resort etc.) what their policy on animals is. Are dogs allowed? If so, what are the rules and regulations?
3) Exercise Your GSD
Exercise your German Shepherd or large dog daily in the lead up to your flight.
4) Suitable Crate
Buy a crate which is suitable for air travel, and one that meets the airlines’ crate requirements.
Per AVMA.org, crates that are usually approved for air travel will:
- Be large enough for your pet to stand (without touching the top of the cage), turn around and lie down
- Be strong and free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips
- Have a leak-proof bottom with plenty of absorbent material
- Be ventilated on opposite sides, with exterior knobs and rims that will not block airflow
- Be clearly labeled with owners name, home address and phone number, destination contact information and a sign stating “Live Animals” with arrows showing which way is upright
Read more about The Best Crates for German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies at The Daily Shep.
5) Crate Training
Crate train your GSD (German Shepherd Dog) WELL before the date of departure. Getting used to a crate can be scary for even big dogs, and takes training and patience.
Read more about Crate Training For German Shepherds at TheDailyShep.com
6) Pet Transport Services
Consider contacting a Pet Transport Service is you are unsure about plane travel. These organisations specialise in pet air travel and have specialised knowledge on requirements and restrictions for both the pet and pet owner.
7) Full Vet and Health Check
Get a health check from your vet on your German Shepherd or big dog prior to flying. Things to consider with the health of German Shepherds and big dogs on planes may include:
- Make sure your GSD has vaccinations and is in a state for air travel.
- Flat faced dogs like boxers can have respiratory problems which make air travel difficult.
- Don’t take big dogs that have anxiety on planes (especially separation anxiety and fear of crates/travel)
- Your Vet may have to sign off/sign a waiver for cargo travel of your GSD
8) Understand Risks of Big Dogs On Planes
Understand the main risks with cargo, and sometimes cabin travel for big dogs on planes include:
- Temperature (extremely dangerous for dogs to travel in hot or cold temperatures)
- Ventilation (how much free running and fresh air is there?)
- Air Pressure (the pressure in some cargos can reach the equivalent of 2000m above sea level)
- Lack of natural light in the cargo
- Noise (engine and wind noise can be very loud)
9) Tranquilising Dogs
It is generally recommended that you do not tranquillise German Shepherds and big dogs on planes Per AVMA.org:
“According to Dr. Patricia Olsen with the American Humane Association, “An animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation and when the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.”
10) Contact Information
Make sure your pet is fully identifiable – microchip, collar ID tag with your contact info, along with contact information on the travel dog crate.
11) Direct Flights Over Transfer Flights
Take direct flights over transfer flights where. Transfer flights can have long unnecessary waiting periods for your GSD or big dog.
12) Cabin Over Cargo
Enquire whether your airline allows you to purchase a seat for your dog in the cabin. German Shepherds have flown in a plane cabin before!
Vet West have another pre-flight checklist you can read on their site.
Day Of Departure: For Taking German Shepherds and Big Dogs On Planes
Make sure on the day of departure you do the following things:
- Take your GSD or big dog for a quick walk before you leave for the airport if possible
- Do not feed your adult pet for approximately 6-8 hours prior to air travel as it is generally recommended dogs fast before air travel to prevent soiling of the crate
- Have all of your GSD’s identification, medication, health certificates and other documentation together in one folder
- Ensure your GSD or big dog has access to water for the duration of the plane trip
- Let check in staff, baggage handlers and cabin crew know your dog is travelling either in the cabin, or cargo hold.
Can You Or Should You Bring A Big Dog On A Plane?
It depends on you as the owner – it’s your decision to weigh up the risks versus the needs of you and your dog/s. Here is a dog’s point of view of plane travel for your consideration.
Can You Bring Puppies On Planes?
Puppies should be at least 8 weeks old, fully vaccinated and cleared by your vet to travel on planes.
Friendly Disclaimer 🙂
TheDailyShep.com are not veterinarians, or animal professionals/experts. Information provided is for informational purposes only – it is not a substitute for professional or qualified advice.
The information is based on either our own thorough research, and/or own experiences, as a means of free speech.
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You should always consult your own veterinarian, animal expert, or health care professional and follow their advice before making decisions on all matters.
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