Before you jet-set with your four-legged friend, you'll want to consider the costs (and the risks!)—both of which can vary greatly from dog to dog.

By Katie Morell
March 03, 2021
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Chihuahua sticks head out of black mesh doggy carrier
Credit: damedeeso / Getty

If you're planning a trip or packing up and moving, there's a lot to think about when it comes to getting your pet from here to there. Among other things, the expense associated with traveling is a big question mark to consider, especially if you need to fly with your dog via plane vs. other methods of transportation.

Depending on where you're going and the type of pup you have, the cost to fly with your dog can vary greatly, and relies heavily on the regulations of the airline you choose as well as the destination.

How Do You Book a Flight For Your Dog?

Derek Huntington lives and breathes pet travel. As former president of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) he now runs Capital Pet Movers, a pet relocation and transportation service operating out of Washington, DC.

"If your dog is under 15 pounds, and you intend to bring [them] in-cabin with you, you can tick a box online when you're booking your own ticket, and the price will be added to your total," says Huntington.

For larger dogs, Huntington says it's best to call the airline's cargo department. A company like Capital Pet Movers typically handles the process for you, with fees starting at $150 for document preparation and go up from there, so you'll want to factor that into your overall cost.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly With Your Dog in the US?

According to Huntington, the cost to fly a dog domestically hovers between a few hundred dollars to around $1,000. Of the airlines that accept dogs to travel in-cabin, weight restrictions apply, meaning you typically cannot bring a dog that weighs more than 15 pounds. If your pooch fits into that category—and you have a proper travel carrier—the cost will be fairly minimal.

Delta Air Lines, for example, charges a $125 fee for one-way travel domestically as well as to Canada and Puerto Rico. The same goes for American Airlines and United, among others.

It is important though, especially since the onset of COVID-19, to check for pet policies on every airline you are considering. "Once COVID hit, a lot of airlines stopped taking pets," says Huntington.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly a Dog Internationally?

Questions around the cost to fly a dog overseas are often met with wincing because, well, the price can get hefty.

"Depending on where you're going and the size of your dog, it can cost you a pretty penny," Huntington says. "On the cheap side, it will run you around $800–$900, but it can go all the way to numbers like $7,000. It is very expensive to fly pets internationally."

When flying with your dog to some rabies-free countries like New Zealand, Japan, or Australia, many international airlines will require you to hire a third-party pet transportation service which can up the cost even more. It's important to ensure that if you absolutely must transport your pet via airplane, the transportation service used is approved by the IPATA.

What Vet Visits Should I Consider Before Taking My Dog on a Plane? 

Vet visits are of utmost importance when budgeting for the overall cost to fly your dog to your destination. Be sure to check regulations from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and plan ahead.

"If you plan to fly from Maryland to California, you will just need to get a current health certificate for your dog that is valid for 10 days," Huntington says. "But if you are flying internationally with your dog, vet work must be done in a little as 21 days to 30 days. For rabies-free countries, though, we are talking about planning six to nine months in advance to make sure your dog is on schedule with [their] vaccines." 

According to Petfinder, typical health maintenance for a dog costs between $150–$615 a year. The cost of a physical examination averages about $50, and any vaccine booster shots your dog might need can cost between $18–$25 each. Check with your vet clinic for more specific estimates and make sure you don't overlook these costs as you're budgeting for your trip, especially if you're traveling internationally.

What Kind of Dog Travel Carrier Should I Purchase for a Flight?

If your head is spinning as you ready yourself for travel with your dog, you aren't alone. There is a lot to think about (and a lot to save up for!). Another expense to consider: the dog carrier.

These are a non-negotiable purchase for all flying dogs. Check with restrictions spelled out by the International Air Transport Association for specific carrier qualifications, but in general, Huntington says a pet coming in-cabin should just be comfortably able to travel inside a small, sturdy carrier with proper ventilation that can fit under the seat.

For dogs larger than 15 pounds, cargo crates come with multiple requirements including making sure the crate is larger than the dog, that there is space for two bowls, and that there is bedding for the dog's comfort. Huntington also recommends ensuring the crate is very strong to protect the dog in-flight.

There are potential risks involved with taking your dog on a plane in the cargo hold, especially for brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like boxers and bulldogs. Do your research and ask yourself if it's absolutely necessary to take your dog on the flight with you, or if you're able to travel with your dog in a more controlled environment like the car or even train, or decide if it may be best to keep them with a pet sitter or in a boarding kennel while you're away.