dog on plane

How to Prepare for Flying with Your Pet

LAST UPDATED 13 March 2024

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Gillian Hill BVSc (Hons)

Flying with your pets can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to travel with your beloved companions and create lasting memories together. And, with the March 2024 announcement by Virgin Australia that small pets would be allowed to fly in the aircraft cabin on domestic flights, many pet owners will be more open to flying with their pets! However, it also requires careful planning and preparation to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your furry friends

From understanding the rules and regulations to preparing your pet for the flight, there are several steps you need to take to make sure everything goes smoothly. In this article, we'll guide you through the process of preparing to fly with your pets, covering everything from health checks to quarantine requirements for international flights, so you can embark on your journey with confidence and peace of mind.

Skip to a Section:
Before You Decide to Travel
Preparing to Depart
On the Day
Air Travel Checklist

Before You Decide to Travel

woman preparing to run with her dog

Talk to your vet

Ensure your pet is healthy and can travel by air

Before you think about booking tickets, it's wise to visit your vet for a thorough health check to to ensure your pet would be fit to travel by plane. Brachycephalic breeds with short snouts (like Pugs and Persians) are prone to respiratory complications and it may not be appropriate or safe for them to fly. In addition, dogs over a certain weight or pets who don't tolerate the stress of flying may be better suited to driving rather than plane travel. Your vet will assess your pet's overall health and well-being, checking for any underlying medical conditions that could be exacerbated by air travel. It's a good idea to ask your vet to provide a certificate or letter confirming their examination of your pet, and giving them a clean bill of health, as it may be required upon check-in.

Additionally, your vet can offer advice on how to make the journey as comfortable as possible for your pet, including tips on hydration, feeding schedules, and managing any anxiety or stress they may experience during the flight. By consulting with your vet before your trip, you can ensure that your pet is in the best possible condition to travel safely and comfortably by plane.

Before going any further, it's also important to research different airline's policies regarding pet travel. Each airline has it's own regulations in terms of minimum pet age, maximum pet size, as well as rules for certain breeds (like brachycephalic breeds).

Update vaccinations and parasite preventions

Depending on where you are travelling to, your pet will need to have received certain vaccinations and parasite preventions.

Domestic Flights

For domestic travel, check the Australian Interstate Quarantine for information relating to your specific journey and destination.

Your vet will be able to provide advice and any necessary parasite preventatives, along with certification that this has been done if required. For example, if you are travelling to Tasmania with a dog, your pet will need to be covered from hydatid tapeworm, and a veterinary certificate confirming treatment, or receipt for the purchase of a worming preventative that covers for hydatid tapeworm will need to carried with you. Your dog will also need to be inspected and found free of ticks within 24 hours of arrival into Tasmania. For holidays to tick prone areas, you'll want to make sure your pet is covered appropriately for ticks and tick-borne diseases in those areas, for example Paralysis Ticks, and Ehrlichosis spread by Brown Dog Ticks. For more information on which treatment you need, see Which Flea and Worming Product do I need?

International Travel

If you are travelling internationally, every country has different rules and regulations when it comes to vaccinations, and it is very important to plan early, as it can take up to 6 months or more to prepare your pet for travel. A good place to start is the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Exporting Companion Animals and other Live Animals Page. You will also need to use a pet travel agency for international pet travel. Whilst vets no longer need to be accredited with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to certify companion animals for travel, we would still recommend seeking out an AQIS-accredited vet or seeking advice from your pet travel agency who can recommend a vet. They are best placed to be able to ensure that your pet is ready to travel overseas.

Research the process and rules

Along with ensuring that your pet is fit and healthy to travel, and has their required vaccinations and parasite preventatives, researching the process from arriving at the airport to picking up your pet at the other end is critical. For domestic travel, contact your airline to find out the procedure for pet travel. If you are travelling internationally, it is a good idea to contact your destination country's embassy, to gather all the information you need. It is also important to be aware that animals cannot be returned (or imported) to Australia from certain countries, and in these cases it's necessary to ensure that you receive appropriate advice prior to leaving Australia. If you wish to bring your pet back to Australia within 6 months of export, you may need to make preparations for this prior to leaving Australia.

It is worthwhile to consider using a pet transport company or travel agency even for domestic travel (required if you are travelling internationally), as the process can be complex. A pet transport company can help to ensure that the correct procedures are followed to avoid delays or problems along the way. For certain breeds on domestic flights, most airlines require you to use a specialist pet transport company.

Preparing to Depart

Get your pet used to their crate

Airlines have regulations for pet travel crates, and it is important to do your research with plenty of time to spare. In general, it is important to choose a crate in which your pet is able to stand up fully, and turn around freely within the crate. Crates for brachcephalic breeds may have specific requirements depending on the airline. Specialised air travel crates will have a fixed water container to ensure that your pet has access to water at all times during travel.

In preparation for your journey, if possible it is a great idea to get your pet used to their crate. This will go a long way in helping your pet remain calm and settled on the journey. While still at home, encourage your pet to feel comfortable in and around their crate, by placing their favourite toys inside, offering treats in the crate, placing their bed or some clothing with your scent on it in the crate. You can also spray the crate with Adaptil for dogs, or Feliway for cats. These synthetic pheromones are designed to promote feelings of calm, and reduce stress and anxiety.

On the Day

Feeding Guidelines

For domestic travel, it's recommended to not feed your pet 6-8 hours before flying as anxiety and motion sickness can cause symptoms such as vomiting and even diarrhoea. If you're flying your dog, make sure they get a hearty exercise the day before and a light exercise on the day to help them relax.

Ensure that your pet has free access to fresh water at all times. In flight dehydration is very common so make sure your pet gets a drink before going in their crate and goes to the toilet.

Should I sedate my pet before flying?

It's important not to sedate your pet prior to travel, because if they are travelling in the cargo hold of the plane, they will be unable to be monitored during the flight. In addition, prior to departure, pets are health checked by airline staff, and a sedated pet can be difficult to distinguish from an unwell one, and this may prevent them from being able to travel.

Should I clothe my pet for flying?

Avoid clothing your pet for the flight as they can struggle to regulate their body temperature in warm weather, and aircraft (including the hold) are temperature-controlled to very comfortable levels for pets. You can of course provide them with some soft bedding, or even an unwashed top with your scent for comfort.

Treats and toys

For dogs, avoid in flight treats like bones, pigs ears or rawhide. Once small enough, some dogs will try to swallow these whole which can present a significant choking hazard.

As a comfort, it's good to include one of your pet's favourite toys, just make sure you've tested it's durability prior. For example, if your dog is a persistent chewer, a poor quality toy can turn into a choking hazard.

Crate necessities

Carriers must be lined with an absorbent material prior to boarding in the event of any accidents. Pee pads are recommended over newspaper with their superior absorption to soak up spills quickly. Ensure that the carrier is securely closed and latched, and clearly labelled with your pet's name.


Ensure that you have all necessary documentation, veterinary certificates, toys, food, lead and medication for your trip.

Arrive at the airport early, to allow plenty of time for check-in and security checks.

Pet Air Travel Checklist

  • Visit your vet to ensure your pet is fit, healthy and suitable for air travel
  • Check your airline's policies, and if travelling internationally, your destination country's regulations for pet travel and export
  • Ensure that your pet's required vaccinations and parasite prevention are up to date
  • If planning to return with your pet to Australia, check the rules regarding bringing your pet back into the country
  • Get your pet used to their travel crate
  • Make a plan for the day of travel
  • Do not feed your pet closer than 6-8 hours prior to travel
  • Ensure they have access to fresh water at all times, and encourage them to have a drink before the flight
  • Do not sedate your pet
  • Do not clothe your pet for travel
  • Make their crate comfy
  • Ensure that you have all the necessary documentation, veterinary certificates, food, toys, lead and medication for your trip
  • Stay calm and enjoy your trip!
cartoon man with suitcase

Arriving at Your Destination

Once you arrive at your destination after flying with your pet, it's important to ensure their comfort and well-being. Take them out of their crate as soon as possible and allow them to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. Offer them water to drink, and a small meal. If you are staying in a hotel or accommodation, familiarise them with their new surroundings gradually, keeping a close eye on their behaviour and comfort level.

Provide them with their favourite toys or bedding to help them feel at home. Monitor their eating and drinking habits, as travel can sometimes cause stress-related changes in appetite and hydration. Finally, give them plenty of love and attention to reassure them and help them settle into their new environment smoothly.


In conclusion, flying with your pets can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. Before you decide to travel, talk to your vet to ensure your pet is healthy and can travel by air. Update vaccinations and parasite preventions according to your destination's requirements. Research the process and rules for pet travel, especially for international journeys.

Preparing to depart includes getting your pet used to their crate and ensuring they are comfortable. On the day of travel, avoid feeding your pet before flying, provide access to water, and avoid sedating them. Arrive at the airport early and ensure you have all necessary documentation, toys, food, and medication for your trip.

By following these steps and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your furry friend, allowing you to enjoy your travels together with peace of mind.

Further Reading

How to Make Travelling Less Stressful for Cats

Top Tips for Travelling with Your Dog

How to Calm Anxious Pets

How to Prepare Your Pet for Boarding