So you are thinking about taking your pet on vacation. You’ve probably heard horror stories about how animals are treated in the cargo hold of a commercial airliner.

What should you do?

Flying pets has become more safe, and airlines are working harder to accommodate four-legged passengers. But accidents still happen, and travel of any kind is stressful for a pet.

First, decide if it’s necessary for your pet to travel. Can other arrangements be made? If you don’t have to take Fido or Kitty, don’t.

If your pet needs to come with you, and if he’s small enough, fly him in the cabin with you. The pet must fit in a carrier that goes under the seat in front of you, just like any piece of carry-on luggage.

Purchase a carrier several weeks before your first trip, and leave it out where your pet can see it and become used to it. Leave him in it for short intervals several times prior to your trip.

Be sure to notify your airline in advance that you will be putting an animal on board. Ask about restrictions, regulations and special instructions in terms of paperwork and check-in time.

If your pet must go in the cargo hold, ask specific questions about the climate in the hold and where your pet will be placed. Make sure your carrier is sturdy and secure, and don’t put a lock on the door in the event of an emergency.

Mark your carrier “LIVE ANIMAL” in large letters, and permanently mark your name, address and phone number on it. Don’t leave food or water in the carrier – it will only spill.

Avoid traveling in extreme temperatures, and try to book non-stop flights. Let the flight attendants know you have a pet on board – they let the captain know, just in case there are any delays.

Many animals fly better if they are mildly sedated, although for some pets, tranquilization is neither necessary nor recommended. Discuss this issue with your veterinarian.

Finally, because of the recent rabies quarantine imposed on Texas, there are new traveling restrictions on Texas pets, especially on interstate travel. It is extremely important that your pet be current on a rabies vaccination. (Texas law requires yearly boosters.) Consult your veterinarian about other states’ restrictions.