Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

3850 Grand View Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066



Summer and Holiday seasons turn into USDA Health Certificate Seasons at animal hospitals nationwide.
If you are planning air travel with your pet, here are some things you need to know: 

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Travel is stressful enough without having to worry about how the pet will fare in a carrier surrounded by noise and unfamiliar people. Horror stories abound. Still, most travel disasters stem from one of three issues (all of which are readily preventable).

  • Do not open the carrier for a final pet or hug before travel as the pet can escape. If security requires you to remove the pet from the carrier, you may request that this be done in a room where escape is not possible.
  • Do not use a low quality carrier that can open or break.
  • Do get your pet used to being inside the carrier prior to travel so as to minimize anxiety. Keep in mind that brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breeds may have difficulty breathing when agitated (see below). Proper planning makes for a fun excursion for every member of the family, even the furry ones.



  • Most airlines require pets to be 15 lbs or less to fly in the cabin with their owners (this weight includes both the pet and the carrier). This also means the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Check with the airline about the carrier size and dimensions. Most airlines sell carriers or you can buy one from a pet supply store.
  • Be sure to confirm with the airline the day before travel that your pet is coming with you.
  • Remember that you will need a USDA Health Certificate in most cases. Check with the airline as to how recent the certificate must be issued. The USDA considers a health certificate good for 30 days but many airlines and states have their own ideas about how long a health certificate should be valid (10 days is typical for domestic travel). Some states require special vaccinations. Travel to foreign countries now requires special notarization of the certificate beyond the veterinarian’s signature. Always be sure to check with the consulate regarding what you need.
  • Some animals may be stressed or frightened by travel. Consider tranquilizers. If your pet is traveling in the cabin with you, you may just want to have them on hand in case of unexpected anxiety.



  • Some airlines have maximum weight requirements. Be sure to check if you have a big dog.
  • Most states will not accept animals younger than 8 weeks of age. Such youngsters will not be allowed to travel by air.
  • Federal regulations require each kennel be properly marked as follows:

♦   Display a "Live Animals" Label with letters at least 1 inch high, on top and on at least one side of the kennel.

♦   Indicate the Top with arrows or "This End Up" markings on at least two sides.

♦   Feeding Instructions Label: If food is necessary it must be attached to the outside of the kennel.

♦   Feeding Certification Attached: Certification must be attached to the kennel stating that the animal has been offered food and water within four hours prior to drop off at the airline. IMPORTANT: Do not feed your animal in the two (2) hours prior to departure, as a full stomach can cause discomfort for a traveling pet.

♦   Contact Information Label: Label with your name, address and phone number at origin and destination cities. It is also a good idea to include your pet's name on the label (in case of escape, it may help to call the animal by name).

    • Include two empty dishes: One for food and one for water, securely attached to the container and accessible from the outside.
    • Absorbent Material: The kennel must contain absorbent material or litter. (Black and white printed newspaper is a good choice). Please note that the use of straw, hay or wood shavings is prohibited for international shipments.


    According to the Animal Welfare Act, there are
    specific temperature guidelines to which airlines must adhere.

    Ambient temperatures in holding areas for cats and dogs
    must not fall below 45 degrees F for more than 4 consecutive hours.

    Dogs and cats must not be exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees
    for more than 45 minutes when being moved to or from a holding areas.

    Animals transported as carry-ons are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act,
    so it is up to the person carrying them to see that they do not become too cold or overheated.

    Consider a Microchip ID for any pet that travels.

    For more details:

    We wish easy travel and a pleasant journey to everyone transporting their pets.

    As of the end of 2015, Delta Airlines will
    no longer accept animals as checked luggage.
    They must fly as cargo.


    For Airline Requirements for Pet Travel:

    For international destinations, each country has special requirements for animal travel. To visit the USDA database for international requirements, see:

    For requirements for domestic travel visit:

    Facial and throat conformation of the brachycephalic breeds creates a risk factor during times of rapid breathing.

    For the AVMA's FAQ on Short-nosed Dogs and Air Travel, visit:



    Tips for air travel with a pet:

    For some additional information on pet travel, including a pet travel newsletter and pet travel discounts, sign up to be a member (for free) at:

    To find a dog park in the area where you are traveling, visit:
    For pet friendly lodging and / or recreational activities, visit:  or

    Please contact us if you need further information in preparation for travel.

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    Page last updated: 7/20/2016