When you travel with a pet, you need one very important thing: a good carrier for the trip. Heart + Paw’s chief veterinarian, Dr. George Melillo, explains that proper use of a carrier begins before you’ve even made your reservations. “The most important tip is to acclimate your pet to a carrier. This makes trips to the vet easier as well as travel,” he says. “Having a carrier at home is a welcome place to find toys or treats takes time, but ultimately makes the trip less stressful.”
With so many different options on the market, how on earth do you choose the right carrier bag for your precious poo? Ideally, you would call on veterinarians for their personal opinions. Well, what do you know? We did it right here.
“Backpack carriers are a fun and easy way to take your pet along while keeping them safe and your hands free,” says Dr. Kristin Wuellner, Registered Veterinarian at Hills Pet Nutrition. Choosing one, she says, “Your small dog or cat needs to be able to relax comfortably, which means there should be plenty of room to turn around and lie down.”
This spacious and stylish backpack comes in three sizes, so you can find one that’s perfect for your pet. The bag has plenty of mesh for ventilation (particularly important, Wuellner notes, for pets that tend to overheat).
Available in nine colors, this sturdy backpack carrier carries furry animals weighing up to 18 pounds. It’s made of mesh for that all-important breathability. It even comes with a name tag and collapsible water bowl.
If you’re hesitating about a backpack carrier, the versatility of this model may appeal to you. It has wheels, allowing you to opt to pull your dog behind you when it’s more convenient. It features plenty of mesh for visibility, a telescoping handle and convenient zippered pockets.
While these choices are generally airline-approved, different airlines may have slightly different requirements. It never hurts to check.
Melillo tells us Sherpa is a brand he often recommends to customers looking for a baby carrier. Available in four sizes, this flight-ready carrier has mesh sides and a machine-washable lambskin leather lining.
This carrier is approved by many major airlines. It offers self-locking zippers for added security and keeps cats and toy breed dogs weighing up to 15 pounds snug and comfortable. You can choose from four colors.
This carrier is another favorite of Melillo and the pet parents it serves. It has a pocket that will attach to most wheeled suitcases – so handy! It has well-ventilated walls and a removable cushion that can be used as a dog bed when you reach your final destination.
For smaller dogs and cats, Dr. Sarah Wooten, veterinarian and veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, suggests “a soft-sided crate that can fit under the seat in front of you. In addition, it is useful that the top and the sides can be zipped.
Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Dog and Cat Carrier ($75.99, originally $152; chewy.com)
The Sherpa Ultimate allows you to access your pet from the front or the side. Plus, it also has wheels if you need easier navigation in a crowded airport. One of Melillo’s favorite carriers, it fits under most airplane seats with no problem.
Frisco Premium Dog and Cat Carrier (from $29.17; chewy.com)
This soft and economical carrier allows you to reach out to comfort your pet from the top or the side. It fits under most airplane seats, while lockable zippers keep your pet from becoming an escape artist.
This carrier convinces pet owners with its unique versatility. The sides of this carrier, which are mesh to improve ventilation and visibility, extend out, much like a camping tent. When you arrive at your destination, your pet has more room to spread out.
If you’re the proud parent of a large puppy or kitten, you’ll need a crate, aka a kennel, for air travel. You might also want one for your road trip, depending on how comfortable you are with Rufus hanging around your SUV.
Wooten informed us. “Look for a hard-sided crate that meets IATA live animal regulations and TSA regulations for air travel, or has a crash rating for car travel.” Especially for air travel, the crate should be large enough for the dog to turn around and stand up without their ears touching the top, she adds.
This product is recommended by Wooten and is also a Melillo customer favorite. It comes in six sizes. Included are clip-on bowls and special identification stickers. It meets most airline freight requirements. “It can also be attached for in-car use,” Wooten informs us.
This crate, available in sizes up to XXXL, is IATA approved and meets most air cargo requirements. Clip-on bowls will allow Bowser to feed and drink on his journey. The wheels are removable. A fleece bed that fits perfectly into the interior is available separately.
This kennel meets all IATA requirements and is available in four sizes. The door has a latch that allows it to be opened with one hand, convenient when you’re on the go. One satisfied reviewer noted that it was really easy to put together. Another praised it as the only crate his dog couldn’t chew.