Pet Travel: Pointers for keeping your pets safe in cargo

Travel with a Pet via cargoOne of the most common concerns pertaining to pet travel comes with transporting a pet via cargo. Contrary to popular belief, pets aren’t crammed with luggage in a deep dark hole in the bottom of the plane. Actually, pets are loaded into a temperature and pressurized compartment separate from luggage. They are also the last to be loaded onto the plane and the first to come off. Usually before you even get to the gate! It’s understandable that the thought of having your pet transported without your supervision can be stressful for both you and your pet. But before you deny the idea completely, do some proper research. Know that thousands of pets are transported via cargo every year and as long as you and your pet are properly prepared, you shouldn’t worry. has created a list of pointers below to consider before and during your transport to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.

Before Travel:

  • Introduce your pet to the cargo crate as early as possible. The more comfortable your pet is inside the crate the better. Also, remember to never use it as a scolding tool. The goal is to curb your pet’s anxiety and anxiousness while inside the crate.
  • If you are considering transporting a puppy or kitten, please be cautious, especially in the summer or winter. It’s difficult for younger pets to fully acclimate to weather conditions. Consider transporting inside the cabin whenever possible.
  • Traveling in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter create a whole new set of variables to consider. These times should be avoided whenever possible. If you can plan accordingly, do so.
  • Consider your pet’s age, health and temperament before travel and consult with your veterinarian. All 3 of these factors play a huge role in pet transport. If your pet has a history of being nervous, consider a sedative but NEVER a tranquilizer.
  • Water is extremely important. Be sure that your pet is hydrated. Consider beefing up the water a few days before the transport.
  • Replace any plastic fasteners with metal crate hardware. Although the plastic is sufficient, metal hardware will keep the crate locked and tight together. Some airlines even require the metal hardware.
  • Does your pet like to sleep on your clothes? That’s because your scent comforts them. Consider putting an article of used clothing (such as a t-shirt) inside the crate to help curb anxiety and stress.

During Travel:

  • It can never hurt to confirm your pet has been loaded on the plane. (We’ve actually heard of airline employees approaching pet owners on the plane letting them know their pet was loaded safely) This especially pertains when your pet is making stops in multiple airports.
  • If your pilot is available for a quick chat, let them know your best friend is loaded in the cargo hold. Your pilot will most likely be aware of this, but there’s nothing wrong with a reminder and it will give you re-assurance for your flight.
  • Consider dividing your itinerary into sections. If you’re on a long trip, pickup your pet and take them for a walk. Most major airports have a pet friendly section available on site or nearby. If you’re on an international trip, consider an overnight stay. Especially if the pet is not acclimated to traveling, easily stressed/nervous, or older in age. Just remember that if you plan to leave the airport, you will need to conform to the countries regulations on traveling pets.
  • Traveling with multiple pets? Consider transporting them both in the same crate. Some airlines will let pets of the same breed travel together as long as they meet the airlines requirements.

Traveling with a pet in cargo doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In fact with a little preparation, your pet can be one of the thousand happy animals transported worldwide every year. Find out more about Pet Travel.


Pet Travel: Pointers for keeping your pets safe in cargo — 98 Comments

  1. Lyn – no matter how you travel, you will need to confine your cats. That said, all commercial airlines require that live animals arrive in the UK as air cargo. You will need cargo crates like these: Because of this requirement, and because an agent is required to claim your cats from the aircraft and take them to the Animal Reception Center for processing, transport to the UK is not inexpensive for this reason. You can find requirements to import your cats to the United Kingdom here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them:

    Some pet owners like to fly to Paris with their pets in the cabin, take the train to Calais and take Le Shuttle to the UK. The downside is that you will need to ride Le Shuttle with your pets in a car. If you don’t have friends or relatives that can pick you up, there are businesses that provide this service.

  2. Am contemplating traveling Boston, Mass. US to London, UK with two, 10-year-old cats (siblings). I’m concerned about the stress of these older/elderly cats of being confined to travel cages. Anyone have experience of traveling with older cats? Any tips?

  3. Hello, I’m traveling with my morkie which is going to be 11 months old by the time we are going to Brazil and because of his size I can’t have him come with me at the cabin. This is my first time traveling with him and the hours are long , more than 10 hours and then transfer to domestic fly, I hope he will be fine and I’ve been reading everything about how to handle this trip with him, I;m worry but some how confident, thanks for any advise

  4. Camila – you may want to talk to your veterinarian about this. Perhaps a very mild sedative would help your pup. If they do prescribe it, then be sure and try it at home first to see how it affects your Weimaraner. When you do fly, put a “used” t-shirt in the crate. Your scent will act to comfort your pup. Also, have it spend as much time in its crate as possible before flying. Try putting it in its crate when you go out for a short time. Always give lots of praise and treats when you return.

  5. Hi, we are moving to Canada from Chile (11 hrs) and we want to take our 18 month-old Weimaraner with us, but I am quite concerned because she has made short flight before (2h), and ended up quite stressed… She also has some separation anxiety issues, and had some self-biting behavior when left alone as a puppy, which makes me wonder if flying might be even dangerous for her… please help!

  6. Marissa – get your Shih Tzu a crate that is one size larger than would normally be necessary for better ventilation. Most important would be to get the largest water bowl you can fine to attach to the door of the crate. Also get a water bottle and teach your Shih Tzu how to use it. ( a bit of peanut butter on the end worka great). You can find both of these items at http:// You want to be sure your dog stays hydrated during the flight.

  7. We are traveling from Canada to the Philippines with our 7-year-old shit zhu. Unfortunately, Philipine airlines can only accommodate our baby in the baggage area. We are worried to death because he is a snubbed nose breed. It is a straight flight with 1 stop over. Any help on how to prepare our dog for this flight?

  8. I am travelling with my pet dog from Bangalore to Chennai by car for the first time on 15 May i would like to know how to handle her and how dose she behave when travelling and what all need to be done before our travel. And will she behave aggressive please help me.

  9. Brittany – we do not know of any commercial airline that will fly live animals into South Africa in the cabin, and she is a bit large for airline pet policies. She would have to travel as air cargo which is not an inexpensive class of travel and you would need to deal with your airline’s cargo department. It is a very long trip as well. You know your pet’s personality and how it would withstand the trip, but it is a long way for 3 months.

  10. Hi there,
    i’m traveling for 3 mos from South Africa to the US from June-Sept and then returning. My dog is very attached to me and me to her. I want to consider taking her with me, but am nervous for her to travel as cargo, and is it too stressful for her to travel there and back within 3mos? Can I buy her a seat on the plane? Shes 23kgs. Any insight?

  11. April – it is safe to transport your 2 month old Shih Tzu for a ride in the car. Be sure and use a type of restraint or a carrier. Running your air conditioning is better than open windows. You will need to stop several times to allow it to do its business.

  12. is it safe for me to take my 2 months old shih tzu for a 2-3 hours car drive?

  13. Kristen – whether your Dane can travel in the cabin would depend on your airline’s pet policy. Foreign-based airlines are not subject to the law you refer to and we are seeing changes in their regulations once the flight leaves the US. It may be best to start with US-based airlines when researching your routing options.

  14. Hi-I am moving from the US to New Zealand in October with my 9 year old cat and 3 year old Great Dane. The Great Dane is an Emotional Support Animal in the States, and is allowed to fly in the cabin of the plane according to US law, but since she is not an actual “assistance” dog, I don’t know if she would have to fly as cargo to New Zealand. I am very anxious about the idea of her travelling on such a long flight as cargo. Any tips or knowledge anyone can share would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Kai – United will likely not carry your cats in the cabin on the Singapore to San Fran leg as it would violate Animal Welfare Laws they are subject to. You will want to avoid airlines that transit in London, Hong Kong or Narita. (adds expense and permits, etc.) Honestly, from a quick look, United or KLM would be the best bets. United is probably the less expensive option.

    The US does not require that cats be vaccinated for rabies to clear customs, but your state will likely require it as will United if you choose them. Your airline will very likely require a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel. No import permit required. As for sedation, you should discuss with your veterinarian. Know that the airlines do not recommend sedation unless there is a medical reason for that. You would want to speak with United’s PetSafe department or KLM about that.

  16. Hello =) My husband and I will be moving from Singapore to Boston in June 2017 with my 3 cats. Is the best way to bring them as cabin? United Airlines allow one cat per passenger. Have to travel from Singapore to San Fran (14hrs 40 min) then to Boston (another 5hrs 40min). My husband is more keen to send them as cargo, whereas I want to take them as cabin bags. What’s the best option? What should I be looking out for my cats? I’m so worried just thinking about how stressed the cats will be.

    – Is there another airline that I should look into as well? I have not bought my air ticket yet.
    – Do I have to fill in any forms to bring my cats into U.S.? Or apply for any permit for them?
    – Should I sedate the cats so that they can handle the long flight time better?

    Thank you so much.

  17. Hello,

    I am looking to move to Australia in August and am wondering if my 64 pound 4 year old pup is required to ride cargo or if I purchase a seat with enough leg room can she ride with me. She is very calm and well behaved.

    Thanks in advance,

  18. We’re going to be transplanting ourselves and our Aussie Shepherd from the US to Australia later this year. We’re on track for all the proper forms, testing and immunizations, we’ll fly with her from PDX to LAX using United’s PetSafe program then picking her up and transferring her to Qantas. She’ll go directly into Melbourne for quarantine and we’ll go on United to Sydney. So, everything is organized, but I’m worried about keeping her hydrated during a 14 hour flight from LAX to MEL.

    What size water container should she have?

    Thanks for any advice or reassurance!

  19. Bing – acclimating your Maltese to its crate is the best thing you can do for it. The night before, freeze water in the crate bowl so it will melt slowly. Get a good crate pad. Tell the crew that she is there and to make sure they monitor conditions in the cargo hold.

  20. Traveling with an 11yr old Maltese to Philippines from sfo on PAL for 14hours non-stop flight. I am worried of course if she will survive the trip.

  21. Kate:

    I live in Uganda and I am planning to bring my dog home with me to the US (California). I am planning to leave around September-October of 2017. I am really worried and I am losing sleep about how to do this.I want to do everthing humanly possible to make sure he is safe. I saw that you had a vet you worked with and went through the MOA. “I have been in contact with a reputable veterinarian who works on pet transportation overseas, and he will be assisting in the process exam, health certificate, and procuring the export permit from the Ministry of Agriculture.” Can you give me the name of the vet you used? Who did you work with in the Ministry of Agriculture? How did the trip home go? I hope you all made it home safely and would love to hear from you. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

  22. Kenneth – we checked with Air France and the maximum number of pets that can travel with a passenger as checked baggage is three. This number depends on the aircraft that is servicing the route.

  23. Kenneth – Air France does not advertise a limit as to the number of pets that can travel as checked baggage. We are checking on that. You will need to verify as to the number of pets that can travel with each passenger on trains to Bordeaux. If your pets are traveling as checked baggage, you will need to deal with their crates and carriers. Many trains that allow pets in the EU will require that your dog be small enough to travel on your lap.

  24. I am planning to move to France from CA. I have a 40-pound dog that was adopted from Taiwan and was on a flight to SFO three years ago. I also have two three-year old cats that do not get along and have to be separated. I want to take them all with me and will probably take Air France so I can get a non-stop flight to Paris and then take a train to Bordeaux. Will 12-hours and transfer to trains in Paris be appropriate? I will be planning this in autumn or spring.

  25. Hello Lubna – you need to get a crate as soon as possible and get your GDS accustomed to it. The nausea is likely caused by anxiety. Your dog needs a place where it will feel safe and its crate will be that safe place for it. Get the largest pet crate bowl that you can find as dehydration is a concern on long flights. You may want to discuss a mild sedative with your vet or consider something natural if it is available. We understand your concern but must state again that preparation is the key. Find other tips on traveling with your pet in cargo here:

  26. Hi, I have a three year old GSD about 40kgs in weight and I’m relocating from India to US. I can’t leave him behind as he is very much attached to me. Is it safe for him to travel a 24 to 30 hour long flight in cargo. He is very big in size and a highly loved dog. He also gets a motion sickness when he travels by car. Please suggest as I’m very worried.

  27. Therese – As long as both your personality and that of your cat will be able to endure the stress of flying, it is better to keep your kitty in the cabin with you. Your cat should be accustomed to its carrier and not be of a hyper nature. You will need to get your cat acclimated to its carrier if it is at all skidish about a change of environment. If you decide to put your kitty in the cargo hold, be sure that you stay on the same airline for the duration of the trip. The airlines will move your kitty from plane to plane as long as it is on the same airline. You will need to get an IATA compliant pet crate like or similar to these: Again, get your cat acclimated to the crate. Best thing you can do for your kitty.

  28. I am about to relocate from dubai to Spain and I have my little baby, cat of two years. She is normally extremely sensitive to any type of change and remove location so I’m wondering what would be the best to keep her in the cabin with me or in the cargo?
    Me myself am scared of flying and I of course wouldn’t want that my own stress will also be put on her.
    We would have to do a stop as there are no direct flights so my worries if she goes in cargo is that what if they miss putting her on the next flight? Does that happen?
    Thankful for any type of advise and tips I can get as I am so worried for my baby girl. (She is two years)

  29. Invaluable post – I was enlightened by the information . Does someone know where my assistant would be able to get a sample DD 2208 form to edit ?

  30. Thank you for your tips! I am relocating to Kansas city, Mo from Jacksonville, FL and I am so nervous for my 11 month old! She is a short coat Mexican Hairless dog and shes already kind of has nervous tendencies. I was going to bring her in the cabin with me but I’m nervous flying too! And I do not know how she would towards the flights’. I would like to know what type of sedative would be safe for her as well as what type of airline do you feel truly takes care of their passenger’s animals?

  31. Meredith – it is very acceptable to attach a sticker on the top of your pet’s crate noting it’s personality. Likely, airline employees will not remove her from the crate unless your layover is very long and they have facilities to do so. You should confirm that employees will check her water bowl.

  32. My dog is getting prepared to make a trip from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Lusaka, Zambia on Emirates. We have all of her paperwork in order and I’ve read lots of tips on how to prepare her for travel as cargo. Although she is usually fine with humans, she can be aggressive with other dogs. Do they take her out of the crate at all when traveling through Dubai and should I put a label on the crate to indicate she should not be out of the crate with other dogs? Thanks! Meredith

  33. Iza – if your layover is over 2 hours, then your dog will be transferred to a holding area. Staff is supposed to check their water bowl to make sure adequate water is available. Beyond that, it will depend on the length of the layover and the facilities that the airline has available to them. You may want to contact them for that information.

  34. I am planning on bringing a dog from overseas. Will have to fly with Aeroflot so that means transit in Moscow. My question is what happens to the dog during those hours? Are you able to get them off and keep with you until your connection flight? Thank you

  35. I am travelling from New Delhi to Bogota via frankfurt with my golden retriever. Any tips on travel with Air India with pets like GR.

  36. Hello, I’ll be traveling on a direct flight from New York to London with my cat next month. Flying into the uk he has to travel as cargo and I need some advice on what to do as far as litter. He has a fairly large carrier but I don’t want to cram him in there with a disposable litter box for 7 hours. Are there other options? Would cars be inclined to use pee pee pads? thanks for any input you can give me!

  37. Rashmi – you need to continue to work on getting your dog accustomed to her crate. Even if she does not like it, it needs to become familiar to her.

  38. I am traveling with my dog in July from Oman to LA and so stressed out because she is a very frightened and nervous dog. Already bought her cage but she doesnot like going in to it at all. traveling by KLM because they have a pet hotel to take her in during the 2.45hrs transit in Amsterdam. Route is Muscat-Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam LAX. Any tips to make her comfortable and safe

  39. Kate – your cats should transit Doha as long as you are staying on Qatar Airways (and you indicate that you are.) If you are not currently planning to vaccinate your cats for rabies, you should verify that is not a problem with Qatar. Your cats can clear customs in the US without these vaccinations, however, most states in the US require them if they intend to reside in the US. You may want to verify the temperature along your route at the times you are landing just to make sure that the temperature does not exceed 30C.

  40. I am looking for someone to look over my travel plans and see if there is anything I’ve missed or offer experienced advice.

    I am flying from Entebbe International Airport in Uganda to Philadelphia International Airport on Qatar Airways in mid-August at the end of my two years of Peace Corps service. I have two cats (siblings) about a year and a half old. Both are fixed and up to date on their rabies vaccinations (each has a rabies certificate from the District Veterinary Officer). A relative brought their Sky Kennels (and accessories) last month and they have been playing in and on them since.

    The first leg of the journey will be a 10 hour bus ride from my home in the north of the country to the capital. I will be purchasing extra seats so they are able to be next to me for that leg, and not in the boot. There is an extremely small chance that a friend could take them in a private car but I am not counting on that.

    We will spend about a week in the capital filling out paperwork and going to health checks (theirs and mine) prior to leaving on the 12th. I have been in contact with a reputable veterinarian who works on pet transportation overseas and he will be assisting in the process exam, health certificate, and procuring the export permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. As far as I know, all I need are the health certificate and export permit for each cat for them to leave Uganda and enter the US.

    The flight departs at about 6pm, however, given the rush hour gridlock leaving the capital, we will probably have to leave no later than 2pm to reach the airport in time. There is an hour layover in Doha at about midnight and the flight arrives in Philly at about 8am where a family member will meet us.

    The average daytime temperature in Entebbe at that time of year is about 22C and drops to about 18C at night. My current location is in one of the hotter regions in the country and my cats are acclimated to this. In dry season, Nov-Feb, daytime highs are routinely over 34C and on bad days it can be up to 40C in the shade. They have never had problems with the heat (knock on wood).

    Is there anything I’ve overlooked? Or tips for flying with pets on Qatar Airways?


  41. Wayland – it is pretty hot in Houston, Texas in June. You may have temperature issues. United and Delta are the only airlines that can fly pets into Houston when the temperatures rise above 85 degrees unless the flight is arriving very late at night or very early in the morning when temperatures are not high. We do not see a direct flight on either of these airlines into Houston. Lufthansa has a nice route from Jeddah (not sure what airport you will be flying from), but the flight arrives at 1:50PM which likely may be a problem. Here’s a thought. Saudia has a direct flight to JFK. United does not serve that airport but Delta does. You can clear customs and connect to Delta who has most flights to Houston through Atlanta. Or you can look at entering the US at Chicago and flying United into Houston.
    Hope we have not confused you.

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