“The most important thing a patient can do is to want to live.” – Dr. Preeti
Welcome to a special podcast episode! Our guest today is Dr. Preeti Kulkarni, the naturopathic doctor who helped me on my personal journey to health. After I visited many other doctors, Dr. Preeti told me to adopt a dog, which changed my life. Her practice promotes using foods in their natural forms, along with other components of holistic health, and is not about selling a program or a product. Listen to this podcast to hear the doctor who I credit with saving my life.
What you’ll hear in this episode:
Your exercise program should be enjoyable, include socialization, and be sustainable for the long term.
Learn about the differences between medical doctors and naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathy includes clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, pharmacology, homeopathy, and Chinese medicine.
Naturopathic medicine: Help the body heal itself and get to the root cause!
Eric discusses his experiences with medical doctors versus his experience with Dr. Preeti.
Dr. Preeti focuses on mental, physical, emotional, and social health.
Nutrition is the foundation of naturopathic medicine.
Conventional medicine: Diagnose, then prescribe to alleviate the symptom.
Conventional medicine often ignores the disease-formation process.
Naturopaths dig deep into the patient’s lifestyle, the causes of their problems, and their motivation to get healthy.
Exercise should make you feel energized and not tired.
Balance is the key!
Many patients think it’s normal to feel abnormal. Find your healthy normal!
Food is fuel.
Change your diet, change your health!
Correct deficiencies then maintain health.
Weekly visits foster commitment and accountability.
Strategies for trying new vegetables!
Processed foods change your palate.
SPICE up your food and your life.
Changing what you eat is much easier than beating an addiction, like smoking.
The first 2-3 months are the hardest.
21 days to a new habit.
Never backslide to the old ways!
The important role that a dog can play in rehabilitation and health.
The little things can motivate you.
Dr. Preeti’s Healthy Weight Strategy Plan (and what that includes).
Counting calories is NOT the answer.
Enjoy the shopping and the cooking!
If you find yourself traveling down the wrong road, it’s never too late to turn around!
Dr. Preeti Kulkarni, N.D.
Dr. Preeti practices in Cupertino, California. Her website: www.coreintegrative.com. To request a consultation with Dr. Preeti, please call and leave a voicemail at 408-724-1486.
“We might not be able to change things suddenly, but addressing the underlying causes will help.”
Welcome to another special edition of our podcast with Dr. Preeti Kulkarni. Dr. Preeti is the naturopathic doctor from Cupertino, CA, to whom I credit my weight loss and health transformation. We’ve heard from Dr. Preeti before about diet and exercise, which are regular elements of our podcast, but today’s episode focuses on hormonal imbalances. Join us for this informative and practical conversation!
What you’ll hear in this episode:
Dr. Preeti says that the place to begin is to screen for diabetes AND pre-diabetes.
What is pre-diabetes and its risk?
Dr. Preeti explains the difference in approach of traditional end-point medicine and functional medicine.
In 2018, naturopathic doctors will be included under Medicare coverage, specifically to target diabetes prevention.
From the CDC: 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.
About 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes symptoms now!
How to make hormones work correctly:
Minimize blood sugar fluctuations
Exercise during the first half of the day
Eat a good, protein-rich breakfast
What are endocrine hormones, and how are they tested?
The importance of healthy snacks and meals.
How animal proteins relate to insulin-resistance.
Many health issues arise from inflammation.
A plant-based diet floods the body with nutrients and antioxidants.
Dysglycemia: What is it?
Lifestyle changes to correct hormonal imbalance.
Small steps to make changes.
The connection between arthritis, inflammation, and diet.
The body’s inflammatory process: the positive and the negative.
Benefits of turmeric in fighting inflammation.
Thyroid issues, adrenals, and steroid hormones.
Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid.
Melatonin: the benefits of supplements to get the body back to normal.
A new favorite area of study for Dr. Preeti: the gut microbiome and its relation to autoimmune diseases.
Circulation. 2016 Jan 12;133(2):187-225. Dietary and Policy Priorities for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review. Mozaffarian D1. PMID: 26746178
J American Coll of Nutrition NHANES 1999-2004 2011 Dec 30(6):502-10 People who nuts have a lower risk of diabetes and hypertension – upto 39% lower risk of mortality, 45% especially walnuts. 1 serving of nuts=28g, >3 servings per week had lower risk of CVD 55% and cancer by 40%.
Intern Med. 2014;53(3):183-8.History of stress-related health changes: a cue to pursue a diagnosis of latent primary adrenal insufficiency.Yamamoto T1. PMID:24492685
Clin Endocrinol. 2016;84(1):107-114. Effects of Intermission and Resumption of Long-term Testosterone Replacement Therapy on Body Weight and Metabolic Parameters in Hypogonadal in Middle-aged and Elderly Men Aksam Yassin; Yousef Almehmadi; Farid Saad; Gheorghe Doros; Louis Gooren
Jaye’s “before” photo above is from 2016, and shows how she looked at 197 pounds when we got back together in September 2016 after being apart for 40 years. Jaye’s “after” photo above was taken on 4/21/17 with a Canon 50 mm lens set to f/1.6 and ISO 200. Jaye is 123 pounds in her “after” photo. Neither image is “photoshopped,” although the outdoors lighting in the “before” photo is rather severe and the “after” picture is taken with softer, professional lighting. Jaye applied her own makeup in the “after” photo.
Jaye did not receive ANY plastic surgery or dermatology services during her transition (or at any other point in her life). To be clear, the results shown in Jaye’s “after” photo does not involve any type of plastic surgery, Botox, fillers, liposuction, dermabrasion, potions, ointments or anything similar.
While Jaye’s results are stunning, most people will not and should not expect to achieve such dramatic results, especially within such a short time frame. Her results are perhaps the best I’ve ever seen, including my own. Jaye’s results are based on completely adhering to a whole food, plant based, no-oil diet (and mostly organic) for the entire eight month period of her transition. Her exercise during her transition was limited to walking my dog Jake for a half an hour before meals, twice each day, with light resistance training 2 or 3 days per week for 30 to 45 minutes during the last few months of her transition. Jaye lives with her mentor and coach (me, Eric), and received daily guidance, encouragement, nutrition education, and cooking lessons every day during her transition. Jaye has high discipline and did not “cheat” or “backslide” on her diet (not once). I attribute her dramatic skin improvements and weight loss to our diet, especially to our twice daily smoothies, which are high in phytonutrients and fiber (especially from sprouts and other vegetables), anti-oxidants (from fruits, and especially berries), and to foods rich in beta-carotene (especially carrots and sweet potatoes).
PODCAST NOTES AND LOVE STORY:
Jaye and I were high school sweethearts, and dated from age 15 to 17, when I joined the Army and we lost contact. We thought about each other often for the next 40 years, and both hoped to see each other again during our lifetimes. When the Eric & Peety film came out, we reconnected, and then decided to resume our relationship beginning in September 2016. We were then married in December 2016.
Listen to today’s special episode of Wags + Weight Loss to hear Eric and Jaye’s weight loss and love story, and exactly what Jaye did to achieve her dramatic results. This is a love story for the ages, and has been years in the making. You won’t want to miss it!
Jaye’s weight loss results, by week:
In addition to their love story, in this episode Jaye and Eric discuss:
The many ways Jaye has benefited from her new vegan lifestyle.
What Jaye ate before reconnecting with Eric.
The foods that Jaye and Eric enjoy eating
The healthy ways to add flavor to foods with herbs and spices.
How to liquid saute with vegetable broth instead of oils.
How to make your own vegetable broth.
The health problems that Jaye had that have completely disappeared based on her new lifestyle.
How Jaye’s family and friends have reacted to her weight loss.
The difference between goal weight and optimal weight.
The benefits of just walking for 30 minutes before meals, twice each day.
Would you like to try and achieve similar results? Then please follow our podcast, starting with the introductory episode, and become the awesome person you’ve always wanted to be! But first, please:
Be under a doctor’s supervision. Whether you think you need to be under a doctor’s supervision or not, you will want to record your progress, starting with a comprehensive medical exam and tracking your weight on a weekly basis.
How Not to Die: The best, most complete, comprehensive book on how a plant based diet will maximize your lifespan and reduce your risk of preventable disease, including cancer, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Includes an easy to follow guide on what to eat to add years to your life. Greger, M., M.D., & Stone, G. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. New York: Flatiron Books.
The Starch Solution: A complete primer on how to practice a whole food plant based diet without added oil or sugar. McDougall, J. A., & McDougall, M. A. (2012). The starch solution: Eat the foods you love, regain your health, and lose the weight for good!New York: Rodale.
The Forks Over Knives Cookbook:A great collection of fast and easy recipes that can be prepared from common ingredients in 20 to 30 minutes. Sroufe, D. (2012). Forks over knives–the cookbook: Over 300 recipes for plant-based eating all through the year. New York: Workman Publishing.
“Enhance your plant-based diet with herbs, spices and herbal extracts.” Dr. Preeti
Welcome to a special edition of our podcast! Today’s conversation is with our returning guest, Dr. Preeti Kulkarni, N.D., of Cupertino, California. Dr. Preeti is the naturopathic doctor to whom I credit with guiding my weight loss and personal transformation. Our topic today surrounds enhancing a plant-based diet with herbs and herbal extracts. Join us!
What you’ll hear in this episode:
There is significant research supporting the beneficial medicinal use of herbs and extracts, such as turmeric, ginger and garlic, in our diet.
A doctor’s responsibility includes teaching patients how to be healthy.
Dr. Preeti explains her concept of transforming the student into the teacher.
Eric, who is not a medical professional, can still provide valid coaching and mentoring based on his self-education and personal experience going through the same health transformation himself, without interpreting medical results, diagnosing, or prescribing treatment plans.
Dr. Preeti addresses a listener question about weight loss, blood sugar, getting off medication, and how to find a naturopathic doctor.
Why it’s important to individualize nutrition plans.
How a grain-heavy diet disrupts blood sugar.
Why you should base your diet on whole plants prepared without added sugar or oil.
A Harvard study showed that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables reduced heart disease.
Why individual coaching is instrumental in weight loss programs.
How cinnamon extract helps balance blood sugar levels.
The importance of herb quality—KNOW your source!
How Eric incorporates fruits, vegetables, and herbs into his morning smoothie.
Other helpful herbs and plants include turmeric, ginger, garlic, goji berries, aloe vera juice, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, seaweed, and cayenne.
How garlic speeds up weight loss progress.
Why spicy foods help promote weight loss.
Herbs and spices need to be synergistic and not antagonistic.
Dr. Preeti explains how to detect food allergies and sensitivities.
The top four foods with sensitivity: gluten, dairy, corn, and soy.
The dangers of GMO corn!
Eric explains his food sensitivities to gluten and corn.
To request a consultation with Dr. Preeti, please call and leave a voicemail at 408-724-1486.
Sources quoted in this episode:
Lieberman JA, Sicherer SH. The diagnosis of food allergy. Rhinol Allergy. 2010 Nov-Dec;24(6):439-43. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2010.24.3515.
Wood RA. Diagnostic elimination diets and oral food provocation. Immunol Allergy. 2015;101:87-95. doi: 10.1159/000371680. Epub 2015 May 21.
Eigenmann PA, Oh JW, Beyer K. Diagnostic testing in the evaluation of food allergy. Clin North Am. 2011 Apr;58(2):351-62, ix. doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2011.02.003.
Mrema EJ, Rubino FM, Brambilla G, Moretto A, Tsatsakis AM, Colosio C. Persistent organochlorinated pesticides and mechanisms of their toxicity. Toxicology. 2013 May 10;307:74-88. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.11.015. Epub 2012 Dec 3.
Malini’s Herbal Tea
Dr. Preeti’s grandmother, Malini, practiced Ayurvedic medicine, which is a holistic system based on the belief that health and wellness depends on balancing the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Preeti remembers her grandmother making this tea each day to promote health and boost the immune system of her family, and still enjoys it to this day. Dr. Preeti now offers Malini’s recipe for the health and happiness of you and your family. Enjoy!
“You have the power to make the diet of everyone in your family healthy” -Dr. Preeti
Have you ever thought that women have a harder time losing weight than men? Are there times when you thought your body is just wired differently than others who seem to lose weight easily? There is scientific evidence that may explain this phenomenon and strategies you can follow to overcome it.
Today’s guest is Dr. Preeti Kulkarni. Dr. Preeti is a Naturopathic Doctor, focusing on integrative health. She is the person who was most instrumental in my weight loss transformation and is my go-to expert for health and nutrition information. Please welcome her as she joins us today to answer our questions and give us clear information that we can use to make the best choices for our health.
What You Will Hear In This Episode:
Is it harder for women to lose weight?
The best way to lose weight when other family members refuse to participate.
The importance of a support system during weight loss programs.
Interesting ways to keep your healthy foods separate from the unhealthy foods and snacks of other family members.
Women’s special weight loss challenges.
The weight loss and life transforming benefits of spending time outdoors.
Challenges of weight loss after menopause.
Accomplishing a healthy equilibrium.
What is an obesogen?
Learn about your hunger hormones.
Obesogens you should avoid, and how to avoid them.
Chemical compounds that are banned in Europe but not in the US.
Resources from today’s podcast:
Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013. [Medline]. [Full Text].
“As with all chronic medical conditions, effective management of obesity must be based on a partnership between a highly motivated patient and a committed team of health professionals. This team may include the physician, a psychologist or psychiatrist, physical and exercise therapists, dietitians, and other subspecialists, depending on the comorbidities of the individual patient. Scientific evidence indicates that multidisciplinary programs reliably produce and sustain modest weight loss between 5% and 10% for the long-term.”
Nainggolan L. New obesity guidelines: authoritative ‘roadmap’ to treatment. Medscape Medical News. November 12, 2013. [Full Text].
Bruce Blumberg, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine, coined the term “obesogen” in 2006 when he discovered that tin-based compounds known as organotins predisposed laboratory mice to gain weight
Blumberg was studying endocrine disruptors in the early 2000s when he heard at a meeting in Japan that TBT causes sex reversal in multiple fish species. “I decided to test whether TBT activated known nuclear receptors, expecting it to activate a sex steroid receptor,” Blumberg says. Instead, it activated peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), the master regulator of adipogenesis, the process of creating adipocytes, or fat cells.23PPARγ is evolutionarily conserved between mice and humans, and it may be particularly susceptible to chemical “imposters” because it has a large ligand-binding pocket that can accommodate many chemical structures. When a molecule capable of activating the receptor enters the pocket, it turns on the adipogenic program.
Eric O’Grey, subject of Mutual Rescue™ viral film, to serve as spokesperson for nationwide effort
Group’s first film, “Eric & Peety,” inspires influx of entries for film series
SAN JOSE, CA, July 01, 2016 /24-7PressRelease/ — Eric O’Grey, subject of the first film produced by Mutual Rescue, will serve as spokesperson for this inspiring new national initiative highlighting the life-changing power of human-animal relationships.
Created by Humane Society Silicon Valley, Mutual Rescue is producing an ongoing series of short films, including its first one, “Eric & Peety.” It depicts how Eric adopted Peety, an older, overweight shelter dog who helped him to lose more than 140 pounds and literally saved his life. “Eric & Peety” went viral and has been viewed more than 50 million times.
“I went to the local shelter and I remember telling the lady I would like an obese, middle-aged dog so that I would have something in common with him…” Eric recounts in the film. “I took him home that night and neither of us knew what to expect. And over a period of time we formed an inseparable bond that I had never really experienced with another person or animal.”
“Eric & Peety” is inspiring people from all over the country to submit their stories for consideration in upcoming Mutual Rescue films as well to adopt animals from local shelters and rescue groups. Four additional films will be previewed at a private event in Silicon Valley on September 18, 2016 before they are released to the public at large.
Mutual Rescue is changing the conversation from people OR animals to people AND animals, elevating the cause of animal welfare by illustrating how helping animals helps people.
The announcement above appeared today in Publishers Marketplace, a trade website for publishing professionals. I am thrilled to announce that my book will be published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette, one of the “Big 5” publishers.
I am equally thrilled about my co-writer, Mark Dagostino. Mark is a multiple New York Times Bestselling co-author and former senior writer for People Magazine. His most recent book, which was released in paperback this spring, also featured a dog as one of its leading characters: The New York Times bestseller Elle & Coach by Stefany Shaheen tells the story of the inspiring effects a medic-alert dog has on one family after their daughter is diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. He also has two books hitting shelves this fall, including The Magonolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV hit, “Fixer Upper.” That book already shot to #1 on Amazon on its very first day of pre-orders! Mark’s past books include My Life Outside the Ring by Hulk Hogan, and my personal favorite: Rudy: My Story by Notre Dame football legend Rudy Ruettiger.
In this book, I will be delighted to share my whole story and significantly expand what viewers saw in the short film Eric and Peety by Mutual Rescue, an initiative of Humane Society Silicon Valley, which to date is estimated to have received more than 40 million views worldwide.
The New York Times recently published an article highlighting the grim truth of weight loss: most people who lose weight will regain some or all of the weight they lost.  This NYT article is based on a study in the journal Obesity, which focused on results experienced by participants in the 2009 season of The Biggest Loser television program. These participants lost up to 239 pounds each during the seven months of the program.
To lose their weight, the participants were sequestered with trainers at The Biggest Loser ranch, where they suffered grueling daily routines and a deficit of up to 3500 calories per day. The season winner exercised seven hours per day during the program, and burned 8000 to 9000 calories per day. All participants ate reduced calorie meals that included animal products such as eggs and chicken.
Within six years, 15 of the 16 participants regained much if not all of the weight they lost, with some weighing even more than before the program. The authors of the study and article attributed this weight gain to two primary causes: a reduced basal metabolic rate (BMR) and increased food cravings associated with changes in the levels of hormones that cause hunger. According to test results, the winner of the program, whose weight increased from 191 pounds when the program ended to 295 pounds today, must now eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size just to avoid additional weight gain. The article also shared anecdotal experience regarding his food cravings: “He opens a bag of chips, thinking he will have just a few. “I’d eat five bites. Then I’d black out and eat the whole bag of chips and say, ‘What did I do?’”
After reading the NYT article, I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor for two reasons: First, to share how my experience in losing 140 pounds almost six years ago was completely different and without extreme exercise, calorie deprivation, or discomfort. And second, because an obese acquaintance who pointed out the article to me told me that since the article “proved weight loss was futile,” he saw no point in trying to lose weight, and had resigned himself to being obese for life. This broke my heart, and caused me to exclaim: “THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG!”
The NYT did not publish my letter, which does not surprise me, since my rebuttal is more complex than can be explained within the 150 to 175 word limit of their editorial policy. But this is my letter, followed by a more complete explanation:
Subject: LTTE: After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight.
To the Editor:
Six years ago, I weighed 340 pounds, spent $1,000 per month on medications, and had tried and failed every diet known to mankind. Then I tried one last approach: a plant-based vegan diet. On this diet, and by adopting a shelter dog and walking him for one half hour twice daily, my weight dropped to my optimal weight of 180 pounds in just ten months. I have sustained this optimal weight for six years now by staying away from the standard American diet (SAD) of animal products, oils, and processed foods. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) of a vegan averages 16 percent higher than a person on the SAD. And by avoiding the SAD, I also avoid food addiction and cravings, so I can eat until I feel satisfied without controlling my portions or feeling deprived. My diet and results aren’t unique, and are the same that Bill Clinton and Al Sharpton followed to lose their weight and keep it off.
In other words, the NYT article reflects the consequences and results of the SAD, not the results I experienced six years ago after losing a comparable amount of weight as many of The Biggest Loser contestants. And unlike The Biggest Loser contestants, I have maintained my results without discomfort or deprivation.
I lost my weight by transitioning to a whole foods, plant based diet similar to the one now described in The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, and also by walking my dog for a half an hour, twice per day. After losing my weight, I took up long distance running and became involved in some extreme exercise. While on my running routine, my calorie intake increases to between 4000 and 5000 calories per day. But I have also been sidelined from running with injuries and travel for weeks and months at a time in the past several years, and each time I stopped running, I did not gain weight. That’s because my BMR hasn’t dropped, and also because I have no food cravings on my plant based diet, so the amount of calories I eat automatically adjusts to my level of physical activity.
I can strongly relate to and agree with the frustrations described by The Biggest Loser contestants, because I have experienced the same problems myself. Before my weight loss, I tried and failed every weight loss program ever marketed in America, including prescribed controlled substances, Atkins, Nutrisystem, South Beach, and more. I was always able to lose some weight on each of these programs, but in my experience none could be sustained as a permanent lifestyle. And when I eventually failed on these programs, I not only regained whatever weight I lost, but more. When I wasn’t dieting, I would commonly order “foods” such as two Dominos extra-large pizzas at the same time, so I could eat one that night and save one for the next day. As usually happened instead, after eating the first pizza, I would eat a slice of the second, and then another slice. And then I would think, I might as well finish the second pizza also, and before I knew it, I had eaten two meat lover’s extra-large pizzas in one sitting. So the reason that the NYT article and Obesity study are just plain wrong is because The Biggest Loser participants have failed to try a plant-based alternative to the SAD and are doomed by the animal products, oils, and processed sugars in their diets.
By maintaining my plant based diet and a regimen of at least light exercise in the form of taking my dog on long walks when I can’t run, I have avoided the pitfalls described in the NYT article: my BMR has increased rather than decreased, and I have no desire to over eat, since I do not experience food cravings or any urge to binge on food as described in the article. I also never feel deprived with what I eat: I strongly prefer the delicious and satisfying meals I prepare now from whole plants versus the unhealthy processed foods and animal products I ate when I was obese.
 Kolata, G. (2016, May 01). After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html (discussing Fothergill, E., Guo, J., Howard, L., Kerns, J. C., Knuth, N. D., Brychta, R., Chen, K. Y., Skarulis, M. C., Walter, M., Walter, P. J. and Hall, K. D. (2016), Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.21538).
 Barnard, Neal D. et al. (2015). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Changes in Body Weight in Clinical Trials of Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 115, Issue 6, 954-969. Retrieved from http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(14)01763-8/pdf (Meta-analysis showing that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower average body weight.)
 McDougall, J. A., & McDougall, M. A. (2013). The starch solution: Eat the foods you love, regain your health, and lose the weight for good! New York: Rodale.
Jake and I had a wonderful time traveling to New York and appearing on the Rachael Ray show. Jake got to ride in the passenger cabin of the aircraft and we stayed in a beautiful hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden.
Jake attempting to divert my attention with a stare down contest during the podcast.
I’m pleased to publicize a great new podcast on thisispawprint.com. Pawprint is a weekly podcast “dedicated to animal rescue, adoption, and the heroes who make it happen.” The podcast features me speaking about issues relating to shelter pets, local animal shelters, health and fitness, and plant based nutrition.
The hosts of PawPrint, Harold and Nancy Rhee, are wonderful people and animal rescue heroes. They are deeply involved in the animal rescue community and do an excellent job promoting and educating about this important cause.
You can listen to it here:
The podcast can also be accessed through these sources:
I’m also highlighting this podcast on my website because it provides an excellent example of my interview and speaking style. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for opportunities involving interviews and speaking engagements.
Jake scored the window seat on this flight to JFK Airport in New York.
Recently, I attended a volunteer orientation at Spokane Humane Society, where I learned that more than 75% of their adoptable pets are surrendered by humans from the local community. A leading reason for these pet surrenders involve the humans moving out of state. While I was surprised to learn these facts, it occurred to me, do humans not know that pets can fly out of state too? Do you want to travel with your pet, or do you want to be the most knowledgeable person at cocktail parties about pet air travel? Then read on to learn everything you need to know and help keep human-pet families together!
My current dog is Jake, my BFF and soulmate, and he travels with me almost everywhere. Jake is an enthusiastic Labrador/Rhodesian love sponge who instantly bonded with me at Seattle Humane in August 2015. Since adopting each other, Jake and I have worked on basic commands, and he has blossomed into a well behaved, model traveler.
The good news is, if you have the will to travel with or transport your pet by air, there’s a way! The options available to you depend on several factors, such as the costs you are willing to pay, the personality, training and size of your pet, and whether you meet federal guidelines involving physiological, psychological, or emotional disabilities.
Your pet can fly with one or more of these options: as (1) a carry-on pet, (2) checked baggage or cargo, or (3) a service dog or emotional support animal (ESA). The hyperlinks in the table below detail the costs and conditions involved in each of these three categories on the major airlines in the continental US. Service dogs and ESAs ride free on all airlines, with all information detailed in the hyperlinks below.
Where not otherwise cited, all facts referenced in this article are cited to the above hyperlinks.
If your pet is a small dog or cat, you have the most options when it comes to air travel. That’s because all airlines allow in-cabin travel with a small dog or cat in a carrier for a small fee of between $95 and $125 on one-way travel in the continental US. To qualify for carry-on, your pet must be small enough to fit comfortably inside a carrier no larger than 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide, and must remain in the carrier underneath the seat in front of you for the full duration of your flight. Southwest sells a soft-sided carry-on carrier that you can purchase online or at the ticket counter for $58. Many carriers have breed restrictions and require advance arrangements, so be sure to research the individual circumstances applicable to your pet and airline when planning your travel.
Pets Checked as Baggage and Cargo
If your pet won’t fit into a small carrier and you don’t qualify to travel with a service dog or ESA, your pet will need to fly as checked baggage or air cargo. This category involves the most variation between carriers. Alaska Airlines has the simplest policies and least expensive fees, and will allow you to check any size dog as baggage in a carrier for $100. Southwest does not allow animals to travel as cargo or checked luggage. American charges $200 for pets to ride as checked baggage. United’s PetSafe air cargo program charges for pet transportation based on weight, with rates as high as $699 for extra-large dogs to US destinations. Delta appears to charge the highest rates, with fares of more than $1000 to some destinations. As of the date of this article, Delta quoted me $592 to ship an 80 pound dog in an extra-large carrier from Spokane to New York’s JFK airport. All airlines except Alaska require advance arrangements for this service.
Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals
What’s the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal? You need to know because airlines will ask which you are claiming if you show up to the ticket counter with a dog on a leash. The most important thing to know is that the right to travel with a service dog or ESA applies to the human rather than the animal. Applicable U.S. laws (Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act, and Air Carrier Access Act) do not require either type of animal to be registered or certified. These laws entitle both service dogs and ESAs to fly in the cabin of an aircraft at no additional charge, and also to reside in housing that otherwise prohibits pets, without breed restrictions.
Service animals are restricted to dogs, and in rare cases, miniature horses (I’ve never heard of anyone attempting to travel with a service horse, so we’ll refer to service animals as service dogs). There are no species or breed restrictions for ESAs, and I’ve heard stories of people on aircraft with emotional support ducks, cats and miniature pigs, in addition to dogs.
A service dog is trained to assist an Individual with a disability that substantially limits the individual’s ability to perform a major life activity without assistance. For example, my sister has Type 1 diabetes and needs to travel with a service dog that can smell when her blood sugar is out of balance. I have a friend with epilepsy who has a dog that can sense when he is about to have a seizure. Blind people also commonly have seeing-eye dogs. On the other hand, an ESA is not required to be trained to perform a specific activity. So a service dog is a working service animal under the ADA, while an emotional support animal is only required to be a well behaved traveling companion.
Jake and I on the airport shuttle at LaGuardia airport. My lips are sealed tightly to avoid Jake’s tongue.
The major difference between service dogs and ESAs is that service dogs are legally entitled to go more places than ESAs. Service dogs are entitled to accompany a disabled person into any publicly accessible area, including taxis, Ubers, restaurants, theaters, stores, amusement parks, and just about everywhere else. ESAs, conversely, aren’t legally entitled to enter places other than airports and housing. This doesn’t mean you won’t be allowed to take your ESA into these other places, it just means that they are not required by law to allow your pet. And by always being respectful and nice to everyone I meet, I’ve never been denied access to ground transportation, hotels or other publicly accessible areas while traveling with my ESA.
Jake at the New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott. Jake prefers to lie horizontally and hog the bed so I book hotel rooms with two beds.
Federal law does not require a person to show written proof that they are disabled or entitled to travel with a service dog. But if you don’t qualify for a service dog and want to fly with an ESA, you will need a properly formatted prescription letter from a licensed mental health professional.
Business employees do not have the right to ask a person with an animal what disability the person is claiming. But they are allowed to ask if your animal is a service dog and also what activities your dog is trained to perform. While not required for travel, you can outfit your dog with a vest or patch to proactively identify your dog and help avoid questions from service and transportation employees. Your service dog or ESA is also not required to have any official certification or identification. I prefer to equip my dog with a travel harness rather than a marked vest, and for him to wear a collar medallion that identifies him as a service dog.
The main requirement for a service dog or ESA is that they must obey basic commands and not act aggressively toward other animals or people. Delta Airlines gives these simple requirements: “it is expected that a service [or emotional support] animal behave in public and follow the direction of its owner.” This cannot be overstated: your dog must be friendly, well behaved and able to obey basic commands to travel outside of a carrier in an airport and on a flight. And you should expect small children to run up to your dog at the airport, because nothing at the airport is more interesting than your dog. On my last trip, Jake was suddenly swarmed by several 2-3 year olds who stuck fingers in his ears. Fortunately, Jake greets all children with licks and kisses, even with small fingers in his ears.
Jake securely buckled in and ready for liftoff.
Where does my dog sit on the plane – best case scenario: I’ve not found an FAA rule on this point – but when an extra airline seat is available – either because the flight is not full, or I’ve purchased an extra seat with frequent flyer miles, or used a companion fare from an airline credit card to obtain the extra seat – I’ve never been prevented from buckling my dog into a seat. Perhaps this is because I’m able to explain to my flight attendant that buckling Jake into a seat belt harness is much safer and more secure than leaving him unrestrained on the floor. If there is a sudden drop in altitude from turbulence, for example, the laws of physics dictate that everyone on the flight will be safer if my 80 pound dog is securely strapped in versus unrestrained on the floor. I use this harness to buckle Jake into car and airline seats – his torso is secured by the harness, and the seatbelt loops through the rear of the harness to secure him from behind. Jake loves to travel in a seat this way, and unlike other passengers, sits up and pays attention to the flight attendant during the pre-flight safety briefing.
Where does my dog sit on the plane – typical scenario: When booking travel, I always call ahead to make sure Jake and I get a bulkhead seat. Based on a sense of fairness, I have no problem paying a little extra for a bulkhead seat, but airlines will usually provide one at no extra charge to anyone traveling with a service dog or ESA. Airline rules require that animals cannot travel in exit rows, and must travel on the floor in front of their handler. In a bulkhead seat, Jake has plenty of room to curl up in front of me. I bring a blanket for Jake to lie on, as the floors of the aircraft can be cold. I also bring Jake’s favorite toy and plenty of snacks to occupy him, especially during takeoff and landing when the engine sounds are loud. My vet tells me that dogs do not have the ear pressure issues that humans have, so they don’t need to chew when ascending or descending.
Jake traveling on the floor in an aisle seat of a regular row after our planned flight was cancelled and no bulkhead seat was available. Is Jake the best boy in the world, or what?
Where does my dog sit on the plane – worst case scenario: The only time I wasn’t able to get a bulkhead seat with my ESA is when my flight was cancelled and rescheduled, and no bulkhead seats were available on the replacement flight. In this scenario, my choice was to take another flight or accept the circumstances and be grateful to get home. I chose the latter. As I learned, it’s one thing to travel with an 80 pound dog in a bulkhead row, and quite another in a regular row. So with no bulkhead row or extra seat available, Jake spent five hours underneath my aisle seat in a regular row. You don’t see much of Jake in this photo except for a short section of his body, because lying down, he occupies the full space in front of and beneath my seat.
Doggie relaxers:According to American Airlines, the American Veterinary Medical Association discourages sedatives for dogs, due to nausea, respiratory and cardiovascular problems that may result from altitude pressure. But all dogs are different, and you should have this discussion with your vet, especially if your dog has no prior air travel experience and could possibly become anxious on a long flight. After our discussion, my vet gave me a prescription for Acepromazine, with instructions to give my dog a half tablet two days before travelling so I could check his reaction. This sample dosage caused Jake to become even more mellow that he already is, with no negative reaction. At the airport and on his flight, Jake was on his best behavior, so I didn’t need to use his prescription during travel. But I was still glad that I had the prescription because it gave me comfort to know that I had it if Jake needed it.
Questions from other travelers: Accept the fact that your dog will attract a lot of attention at the airport and you will be asked personal questions by other travelers. I personally would never ask a woman if she was pregnant or why someone is traveling with a service dog, but you should decide how you will answer this question when asked, because you will be asked. My policy is to always truthfully respond to all questions when asked, since I am not embarrassed of the truth and enjoy talking to people about the joy they can experience with a rescued pet.
When discussing the rules for service dogs and ESAs with other travelers, people have told me “I’m not sure I would be comfortable handing a prescription letter to someone at the airport ticket counter”. My responses include:
The feeling of liberation and freedom I experienced after I stopped caring what others think about me was profound and life-changing, you may want to consider trying that.
I feel less disabled knowing that my dog is happy traveling with me and will never be surrendered to a shelter if have to move out of state.
I would never improperly claim the right to travel with a service dog without being entitled to do that, but I am legally entitled to travel with my dog and we are both happiest when we travel together.
Adopting a dog for air travel: If you do not have a dog but want to travel with one and have limited or no dog training experience, consider looking through local shelters for a dog rated “E” for everyone. All reputable shelters screen dogs before placing them for adoption and will be able to introduce you to dogs that are best for your family and lifestyle, including dogs that are appropriate for homes with cats and small children. With patience and love, just about all dogs are trainable to be well behaved and follow basic commands. I prefer to adopt adolescent and senior dogs rather than puppies, because:
Puppies are cute and get adopted from shelters faster than older dogs. But an older dog will know that you saved his or her life and will reward you by becoming the most loyal friend you’ve ever had.
Many older dogs are already partially trained and require a lot less work than a puppy. Many older dogs have already learned basic commands such as sit, stay and down, which are the main skills a dog needs for air travel. And most older shelter dogs are already house trained. So work with your local shelter and find the best dog for you!
Regardless of which dog you adopt, follow your shelter’s advice and enroll in at least a “basic manners” class as soon as possible after adoption. Investing quality time with your dog, and spending at least 5 minutes per day to learn basic behavior commands, will significantly strengthen the bond between you and your dog and will make your travel experiences less worrisome and more fun.
Get your pet a checkup and health certificate before you travel: Before an airline will accept your dog as checked baggage or cargo, they must see a recent health certificate supplied by your veterinarian. Health certificates are not required for traveling with a service dog or ESA. But no matter how you travel with your dog, I recommend that you see your vet before you travel and get a health certificate. Health certificates are generally valid for ten days after being issued. Your vet is required to examine your pet in person and make sure that all of your pet’s vaccinations are current before they issue the certificate. The certificate certifies that your pet in good health and can make the trip safely. Also, make sure your dog is chipped and wearing a collar with an identification tag. Jake’s collar has medallions with his county dog license, rabies vaccine, and chip information.
Travel with an attitude of gratitude rather than a sense of entitlement: Finally, always be friendly, calm and patient in interactions with airport and other service personnel when traveling with your pet. Know that you are traveling under special circumstances and the nice people at the airport genuinely want to help you and provide a pleasant travel experience for you and your pet. Based on my career in sales, I can tell you for certain that people will go much farther to help you when you are kind to them and they feel a personal connection with you rather than a mere employment obligation to assist you. When I travel with my dog, I like to think of myself as an ambassador for everyone who needs to travel with a pet. I try to model my interactions with others in the same way my dog acts when given a treat. So when someone provides me with a kindness, I try to repay them with sincere gratitude, but without licks and kisses.