Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

How to Travel with an ESA on an International Flight

There are multiple steps in how to prep your emotional support animal (ESA) when it comes to a long flight. I’ve been traveling around the world for a few years now with my dog Oskar and at this point if I’m not a master at traveling with a pet, I don’t know who is.

Before your flight:

  • Make sure to notify the airline two weeks before your flight, telling them that you’ll have a dog and send all documents. Most airlines only allow two dogs per flight so you want to make sure you’re good to go 
  • Either the day before or the day of, depending on the time of your flight, make sure to exercise and run your pup as much as possible so they will be exhausted for the long flight.
  • Stop feeding your pup 12 hours before you leave for the airport, make sure it’s their usual food and they don’t eat any new food or treats that could upset their stomach
  • Stop giving your pup water after they eat dinner, if your dog is good at holding their bladder for long periods of time then it’s okay to let them have some water on the morning of the flight, but only a small amount.
  • Try to keep your pup awake as long as possible so if you’re packing or doing something the night before entertain them and don’t let them oversleep
  • You can also use CBD drops (directly in the mouth) the morning of the flight or before an evening flight 

*it is important never to give your dogs any drugs unless it is absolutely necessary and the vet has recommended it. I have never given Oskar anything before a flight and he has flown multiple times without problems. Sedatives just calm and relax your dog’s muscles but it doesn’t put them to sleep so if something is wrong or they are scared they won’t be able to tell you and it can be more traumatic for them to feel like they can’t communicate 

  • If you are nervous for your first flight you can always use Benadryl or Dramamine (as long as your vet has approved of it or your dog has taken it before) these will make your dog tired but still mentally aware and able to communicate

What I pack in Oskar’s bag:

  • His papers for ESA certification
  • His passport
  • A recent health form from the Vet’s office. I try to make sure it’s not more than a few days old (this is not required but some airlines will ask) you can print one off from American Airlines website or United and just use that general form 
  • A muzzle (most airlines require this before boarding until you’re seated and some airports require it in the airport)
  • Your pups favorite toy, Oskar loves his Mr. Elephant the stuffed animal
  • A new toy, this will give them something exciting to play with at the gate or on board. I stay away from things with a squeaker and I avoid toys I know he’ll destroy in 5 minutes
  • Your pup’s favorite treats, make sure they aren’t new ones, because the last thing oyu want is a sick puppy. I try to bring some small treats to give him when he obeys commands but I also bring some type of bone or a hard-to-chew treat that I know takes him a while to finish
  • Bringing a Kong is also great to keep your pup distracted (if you don’t have a Kong for you dog, get one, they’re awesome)
  • A small blanket and a doggy sweater because airplanes usually get really cold, especially when your dog is laying on the floor
  • A small, foldable water bowl
  • A leash that is durable, nothing longer than 6 ft and a comfy harness that he can wear on the flight while he sleeps since they usually ask you to buckle them in
  • if you are worried, buy a doggy diaper and carry 1 or 2 just in case, I usually have 1 but he has never used it *knock on wood
  • handful of plastic doggy bags for all the poops  
  • Dramamine or Benadryl in case

At the Airport:

  • Always arrive 3 hours early to give yourself enough time to check in and get a good seat if it hasn’t been reserved already. Always ask if you can have a seat where there are two seats free, some airlines automatically book you 2 seats but it’s always better to double check
  • Find out if there are any other dogs on your flight and make sure you’re not seated near one another 
  • Make sure to have enough time after checking in and dropping off your bags to go outside for one last walk, and potty break before going through security
  • You will most likely need to go through an extra security check so leave time for that

*usually they just take you into a separate room and have your dog walk through metal detector a second time without harness on 

  • Get to your gate early and board first with priority or special assistance so you can be the first on the plane and get your pup situated 

On the flight:

  • I always keep his muzzle on until I get to our seat because there is always stuff on the ground, and I don’t want him eating something that will upset his stomach
  • Once seated, I usually put my shoes or a blanket or bag under the seats in front of me to block Oskar from putting his snout too close to the feet of the other passengers in front of us to make a little barricade
  • Ask for the seatbelt or attach the leash and clip to chair 
  • I pull out his favorite toy and blanket and get him settled, he usually lays down right away and sleeps the entire flight 
  • The only time he wakes up is when the food comes and then I usually give him his treat, Kong, or bone while we eat
  • If you’re traveling alone and need to use the bathroom you can either take your pup or you can ask the flight attendant to watch your dog
  • if you’re dog seems restless or nervous try to calm them and pet them or give them the new toy or Kong 
  • Although bigger dogs are supposed to stay on the floor, there have been quite a few times where Oskar has jumped into my lap and slept on me. So have a larger blanket ready to cover your pup up
  • Once off the plane look for a doggy relief area or try to get out of airport as quickly as possible so your pup can pee. You can always ask to cut a line if need be, people are usually understanding when it comes to dogs

Overall tips:

  • While most airports don’t require your dog to wear an ESA vest you can if you feel more comfortable 
  • I always google the airport layout before my flight to make sure I know where a doggy relief area is for when I land. If the airport has them, they aren’t always in the terminal you are in so  you have to go all the way out of airport and go back through security. I have found that most places in the US have doggy relief areas
  • When booking flights with connections make sure to give yourself enough time to take your dog to pee between flights 
  • If your dog hates car rides, lots of people, strange noises or things like that I would recommend not flying with them, as it can be very stressful
  • Some airlines require second forms signed by you and your therapist, so be sure to check with your airline before flying and ask if they require other forms 

Happy Flying

Leave a Comment