Pet Travel in an Airline Cargo Hold – What Should a Pet Owner Do?

Pet travel in an airline cargo holdHaving been in the business of serving traveling pet owners with transporting their pets for over 15 years, I have read a lot of articles about the risks of pets traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane. Although I do not intend to argue against those opinions here, I would take this opportunity to mention that there is risk in taking ourselves and loved ones, including our pets, out of our environment no matter how we decide to do it (drive or fly). The core of the issue is not the decision; it is thought and preparation that goes behind it.

Because your children can communicate with you, it is easy to explain to them what you are doing, what is going to happen, and why. However, our pets, and particularly dogs, look to us for communication and will never understand what is happening to them when traveling in an airline cargo hold unless they are prepared for it. As a pet owner faced with a relocation or long vacation involving great distance and necessitating traveling in an airplane where you cannot be with them, what can be done to help your pet understand what is going on and be confident enough to withstand the separation from you?

First of all, you need to evaluate your pet’s health and personality. Take your pet to your vet if your pet has health issues and discuss them. Will these issues pose a challenge to your pet, mentally or physically over a prolonged separation? If so, you need to adjust your travel so that you can attend to those needs. Plan a layover along the way; just know that you will need to accommodate the import requirements of that country.

You know your pet’s personality better than anyone else. If your pet is very dependent on you, then it will take longer to prepare them for the separation involved in travel. Is your pet shy and timid? That will also require lots of advance preparation. Is your pet protective, territorial, and possibly aggressive? This is a difficult personality to deal with when traveling and this personality may require special crates to contain them when they are being held and loaded on the airplane.

Preparing for a trip involving the cargo hold of an airline is not an easy thing. Pets that are exposed to this type of travel before reaching adulthood will be better travelers, but don’t we all learn better when we are young? If you are faced with prolonged pet travel and your pet has never traveled before, plan to start very early. Get the crate months in advance and bond your pet to it, whatever it takes. Replace your pet’s bed with it (unless your pet sleeps with you), put your unlaundered clothing in it, lie down next to it and encourage your pet to use it, again and again. Reward your pet generously. This crate will protect your pet both physically and mentally, so you can understand how important this step is.

The second step is to get your pet out of its environment while in the crate. Take them to the dog park, to a friend’s or relative’s house or somewhere else fun. Or just drive around; anything to remove them from their environment. Get them around other animals or people and observe their behavior if this is possible. The more peoples they are exposed to, the better they will adjust to being around strangers without you.

The third step is to separate yourself from your pet. This is the hardest part, but will help your pet the most. Leave them with a friend or relative for a day, then come back to get them. Leave them at the groomers for longer than necessary, then come back to get them. Take them to doggy day care, then come back to get them. Always have a joyous reunion and give them lots of love and hugs when you come back to get them. By doing this, they will know you will always come back to get them, no matter where they are. And they will function better without you for periods of time. This is exactly what you want them to be able to do when you travel.

This all may sound hard to do, but it is not impossible and certainly worth doing. And yes, there are more things you will need to do such as check your destination country’s import requirements, look up local vets and pet hospitals, accumulate your pet’s medicines, take toys and grooming tools, and don’t forget a good leash. Just remember that you must prepare your pet mentally in order to have a successful trip. And, instead of feeling guilty, do what you can to prepare your pet. It will pay off in the long run.

16 comments to Pet Travel in an Airline Cargo Hold – What Should a Pet Owner Do?

  • Linda – well, the confusion could be coming from the fact that Delta does not fly live animals on their 767 aircraft because the hold is not configured for it. I think that is what the airline representative was telling you. Delta flies 767 aircraft on many of their long routes including into and out of London.

    My suggestion would be to try another airline. There are several to choose from: Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic may also be able to help you and they all fly directly from LHR to DTW.
    Susan

  • Linda

    I am getting conflicting info on flying my pets, two cats and a dog. Delta tells me they a under an embargo for flying pets from London to the USA Detroit. A pet travel company says they can arrange travel through Delta. Who is right? I plan to fly late September.

  • Jenny – certainly give your pet some water. Best to walk them and orient them to their new location prior to feeding them.
    Susan

  • Jenny

    I have some additional question :)

    What is the best thing to do upon your pest arrival
    After airplane travel should you feed him or just give him water …..

    Million thanks
    Jenny :)

  • Hello Stephany – if you have followed the rules, then you should not have problems on your trip. Your pet must first be microchipped, then vaccinated. Finland has a 10 day rule that a licensed vet must fill out the Annex II form within 10 days of entry to Finland. It should be endorsed by your country veterinarian. The tapeworm test must be done between one and five days of travel.

    What I am confused on is your comment about being inspected in Amsterdam. If you are not changing airlines, then the airlines should just transfer your pet from one plane to another and no inspection should be needed because you are not entering the Netherlands. I would inquire again as to why an inspection would be necessary.
    Susan

  • Stephany

    Hello!
    Im flying from Mexico city to Finland. My dog is microchipped, has his rabies (with more than a month before flying), and will get the Health Cert and deworming on the week before flying.
    I’ve been told stories that its really hard to take your dog and that he will be quarantined or shipped back. Is this likely?
    Also, I will connect via Amsterdam, and as the first EU country, they will inspect him there first. KLM said I don’t do anything, they will check him and need at least 50 min connecting time. But what happens if something is wrong, and is 1hr really enough time??

    Thank you for your time. My dog and I appreciate it (the nerves are killing me).

  • The N.O.C can only be obtained for you by someone who is in India as they must appear in person to obtain the document. I have previously referred people to this agent in India who can obtain the document for you.
    Rishya Hemchandra
    Yashbans and Fuzzy Wuzzy
    Bangalore, India
    visit us at http://www.fuzzywuzzy.in / http://www.yashbans.com
    info@fuzzywuzzy.in
    Cell:+91 984 515 8080 – Direct line: +91 988 631 2691
    Fax: +91 80 4163 8533
    She is a local pet transport agent who can advise and assist you.

    Be sure to check with the airline you are flying on to confirm that they will transport the Pug breed of dog as checked baggage – not all airlines are willing to do so.

    Jerry

  • I AM TRAVELLING FROM CHINA TO INDIA FOR A SOME TIME AS I AM TRAVELLING AGAIN WHERE DO I GET N.O.C. IN MUMBAI AS I HAVE A PUG WHO IS 5 YEARS OLD ALL THE DOCUMENTS AT MY END IS COMPLETE .

  • If you fly with your dogs, you must clear them through Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester and they must travel as manifest cargo. An agent will pick up your pets and take them to the Animal Clearance Center where you will pick them up. There is a charge for this service.

    Best bet may be to take the ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle on DFDS Seaways. Your pets will need to travel in a car or kennel. Last time I looked, it was $19 per pet, but may have changed. You pets will be cleared in Newcastle.

    Your pets will need a microchip, vaccination, blue pet passport and a tapeworm test just prior to entering the UK.
    Susan

  • de meyer

    I need to travel Nice to Newcastle how much will 2 small dogs cost urgent thanks

  • Anna – the airlines are cautious about sedatives and many do not allow it. You should ask your veterinarian whether this is wise if your airline allows it. We do not recommend it. There are all natural calmers that you may want to try. We have them available at http://www.pettravelstore.com

    As for hydration, the airline will require a water/food bowl that will attach to the door of the crate. Best to freeze the water so it will not spill and melt slowly.

    My best advice would be to get your kitty used to the crate as soon as possible. Try taking it out of its environment in the crate. If you wait until travel day, it will be traumatic. Once your pet is loaded and the plane is in the air, the sound of the motors will most likely put your kitty to sleep. We have lots of information on pets traveling in the cargo hold here: http://www.pettravel.com/news_letter.cfm
    Susan

  • Anna

    Hi Susan, thank you for your prompt reply. I understand there will be much to do about the airlines and documents, but I’m ready to prepare all necessary papers and arrange whatever I can with the airlines. My main concern is my pets’ physical and mental health in such a long trip. They do not have any health problems but such a long trip looks tough even for totally healthy cats. Should I give them any sedative medication? Can I do anything to prevent dehydration? I shall be thankful for any tips.

  • Hi Anna – I can understand your concern as this is a long trip. You need to talk to your vet about your pet’s health and ability to handle a long trip. It concerns me a bit that you are changing airlines. If this is a must that you change airline, know that you will need to claim your pet and recheck it on the next airline. This means that you will enter the country and must carry health certificates for that country.

    As to the trip, I would suggest that you speak with the airline and ask if they will allow you to see your kitty during the layover. Sometimes this can be arranged. The other option would be to layover for a night, but again, this would require entry to the country.
    Susan

  • Anna

    Hello Susan. I have to travel from Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Cambodia with my two cats. I really dislike the idea of exposing my animals to such a long trip but unfortunately I cannot leave them in Russia. The flights from St.Pete to Cambodia take more than 24 hours and two airline transfers, which I guess is much too dangerous for the cats (at least one of them will have to be transported in cargo hold). So my decision is to travel from St.Petersburg to Bangkok or Saighon (some 16 hours, 1 transfer) and later from Bangkok or Saighon to Cambodia (that’s a short flight). Do you think they can endure such a trip? What can I do to make it easier for them? I am worried about the cat in the cargo for 16 hours without access to water, and psychological stress as well.

  • Hi Maxine – if your Yorkies are traveling in the cabin, there will be no problem leaving Phoenix. If they are traveling as checked baggage or cargo, then you need to be concerned with them flying out of Jacksonville to Phoenix this time of year. The temperature in the hold is fine once the aircraft is in the air, but on the tarmac, there is little protecting them from the summer heat. I would suggest that you try departing very late in the evening if possible.
    Susan

  • I need to go home to phx az from jax fla with transfer in Atlanta ga.

    I have made this trip many times with my little yorkies, but never in the summer

    My main concern is if they will be in air condition vans while leaving the terminal
    to their boarding department with air plz answer and help me out Thanks maxine

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