Flying with an aging dog or an aging parent can prove challenging individually. But what about flying with an aging dog and an aging parent? This is the question that Guest Blogger Andy McNaby of pet wellbeing website Pet Gear Lab is going to answer for us today. Read on to find out answers to these questions and many more:

  • What preparations should you make?

  • Is there anything you can do to ensure that flying doesn’t endanger their health?

  • Will security and customs be twice as stressful than when flying alone?

Andy’s overall recommendation:

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Here are five tips from Andy on how to make that happen:

  1. Bring an escort to help you through the airport

What some don’t know is that airports often allow non-traveling escorts through security to assist passengers to the gate You don’t have make an advance reservation to take advantage of this as long as the escorted parent is elderly or incapacitated. You do have to check in with the airline as they will need to issue you an escort pass. If you’re traveling alone, most major airports have personnel who can assist you through security. Depending on the airline you’re using, you may be required to pay extra or give notice depending on the level of assistance required (be sure to inquire when booking your ticket). It may also be worth carrying your dog on your back if they are relatively old, as walking through the lengthy airports can be very tiring and stressful for them.

  1. Pain-free security clearance for the elderly is a reality

If there is one benefit of flying when you’re older (75+ years) is that one qualifies for expedited security clearance. This means you don’t need to remove your jacket or shoes, and some airports even have designated lanes for passengers needing extra assistance (and definitely for anyone in a wheelchair). Inquire about these services when booking flights. If your parent is on medications, they are also exempted from carry-on allowances for liquids (although keep them in their original container and bring copies of prescriptions just in case). It’s also advisable that you keep your parent’s meds in your carry-on in case the airline loses your checked. There is nothing more stressful for a traveler than medical regimens going missing.

  1. What to bring with you on the flight

The elderly often get cold when flying. so carry a folded-up blanket, sweater or jacket to ensure they stay warm throughout the flight. Other essentials you may want to pack for the flight include a sleep mask, earplugs, folding cane, folding stool, and travel pillow. Many airlines allow passengers to book a wheelchair and if you are traveling with an aging parent, you may need to take advantage of this. It’s particularly useful if you’re connecting as a gate agent can meet you planeside and escort you to your next flight. Also have a car meet you at the airport so that you have room for relaxation after the long haul, a luxury that’s typically not available with public transport. Don’t forget about travel insurance for medical emergencies as well (read an earlier post on travel insurance).

  1. Health screening and safety

If you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to check for immunizations or other entry requirements before bringing your dog on the plane. Remember some treatments require a series of shots so the earlier the better when going out of the country. To ensure you don’t have any issues with security or the airlines, be sure and carry a copy of immunizations with you (it’s typically a requirement if entering a different country). Every dog should undergo a general health screening before traveling by air (even for just an hour flight). This is particularly important for elderly dogs. You may want to insert a microchip in your dog for identification purposes. Before you book your ticket, inquire if your pet can travel with you in the plane’s cabin and if so, what if any preparations you need to make (such as obtaining a carrier, etc.).

  1. Traveling in cargo/cabin

Unless the animal is a service dog, most carriers require animals to be in a carrier which fits under the seat in front of you (be sure to clarify before booking your ticket). If your dog is the nervous sort, you may want to give him/her a tranquilizer although it’s best to test its effectiveness before you get on the plane. Tranquilizers typically work best on an empty stomach (although verify timing with your vet) and be sure and give it in plenty of time to take effect before the plane departs. Don’t give your dog any food or water on the traveling day but you can give him small amounts of water throughout the flight. If that’s not a viable option then looking into alternative ways to keep them calm throughout the flight. You can find some tinctures and oils online (and can get them here), or maybe keep their favorite item from home in their carrier to give them some sense of regularity with all the new sights and smells around them. Keep in mind that all larger dogs are required to travel in the plane’s cargo unless they are registered helper dogs. Get a solid cage and an orthopedic dog bed for an elderly dog in the cargo hold and be sure to attach his health certificate as well as the ID tags. Place an ice pack in a bowl in the cage to give him a regular water supply during the flight. Avoid using tranquilizers on a dog that will be traveling in the cargo hold as they need to keep their balance on the moving plane. Walking around the airport can be quite tough for elderly dogs so you might want to look at reviews of some of the best pet strollers so they don’t have to walk. It’s all about making this an easy, stress-free process for both you and your dog.

So that’s it, traveling with your parents and their pets can be a lot of fun if you make the right preparations. Hopefully our list has given you a thirst for travel! The only thing left to choose is where you’ll be heading next!


traveling with an aging dog and an aging parent

Andy McNaby of Pet Gear Lab.

Andy runs the Pet wellbeing website Pet Gear Lab. He’s always loved animals and he’s an expert in dog behavior and obedience. He’s always up for a good chat about all things pet related, so give him a shout if you’d like to chat more.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Thank you Andy for your suggestions! This makes me want to grab Fido and Mom and GO! Oh wait, thank goodness Mom doesn’t own any animals anymore. 🙂