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 — 128 Comments

  1. Neha – you can find lots of information on flying your dog in the cargo hold here: Air Canada flies the route between Mumbai and Toronto non-stop. This is far preferable to a flight with layovers. You may want to discuss a very mild sedative with your veterinarian. Most all pets sleep to the drone of the engines of the plane during the flight.

  2. HI,

    I am planning to travel with my 4 years old mix Lab, in the month of August from India to Toronto, Canada. which would be a direct flight of 18 to 17 hours.
    I am really worried for him. he gets very anxious when not with me. will travelling in cargo safe for him? what airline I should prefer? And what measures i should take for his safety??

    Is there any way he can travel with me in cabin?

  3. Mo – if the weather conditions are stormy and cold, the airlines will not transport the puppies in the cargo hold anyway. Temperatures must be over 45 degrees F (7 degrees C) for the airlines to transport live animals in the cargo hold. Keep in mind too that the puppies’ respiratory systems are not fully developed. It will be tough on them to fly in the cargo hold at this age.

  4. Hi.
    From what I am reading here, I do not think what I was intending to do is a good idea. I was going to fly from Fredericton to Toronto, pick up 2 (11 weeks old) mixed breed pups and cargo them to Fredericton, same day. I am sad because I have not met them and they will not have a chance to acclimatize to a carry crate which this blog suggests is best to reduce their stress. I would prefer to drive up but it has been a stormy winter and next week is predicting lots of potentially bad road conditions.

  5. Stuart – the QM2 would be a preferable solution if you are concerned about stress for your Collie. It is a longer trip but you will be able to visit your pup and take it for a walk, etc. Cunard books up for this service way in advance, so contact them to find out availability. As for flying, it is important that you acclimate your dog to its crate well in advance of travel. Most pets fall asleep during flight; however, this will be a new experience if your pup has not flown before and will be a bit stressful for it.

  6. Hi, I’m trying to decide between Virgin Atlantic flight – London to Washington DC or the ship – Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York. Which one is safer/less stressful for dogs? On flights, even though the cargo area is said to be the same pressure as the cabin, don’t dogs suffer from the ‘ear pressure’ effect that we as humans experience? Isn’t their hearing/ears more sensitive? I will have to drop my border collie off at Virgin Atlantic cargo 4 hours before the flight, then there’s 8 hours flight time, then however long until I can see her the other side, so quite a long time in the sky kennel. On the ship there are visitation times throughout the day and exercise areas but during a flight, dogs are not checked on at all. Is the ship a safer option? How do I decide?

  7. Jessica – millions of cats and dogs fly in the cargo hold each year. You cat should be in good health and be acclimated to her crate. Get her a good pet pad in case of accidents. Make sure that the crate is secured with hardware and the door zip-tied closed after the cargo agents check the crate. She should have a good-sized water bowl attached to the door. There are many tips for flying with a cat in the cargo hold here:

  8. I am traveling from LAX to London, England in the middle of August with my cat. She’s not allowed in the cabin with me so I will have no choice but to put her in the cargo part. Do you think she’ll be okay? She’s about 4 and is fairly calm in her crate.

  9. Despina – it is always best to fly dogs and cats directly to their destination if possible. Generally, the drone of the engines will put dogs to sleep. Acclimating them to their crate is key so that they consider it their “safe place.” That said, if you are planning to travel soon, the temperatures in EWR will not be suitable for live animals traveling in the cargo hold and likely your airline will not accept them. If you decide to fly to Paris, then drive, your dogs will not need an EU Pet Passport. The EU health certificate they use to enter France is good for 4 months of travel within the EU as long as their rabies vaccination does not expire.

  10. Traveling from USA with ultimate destination of Greece. The EASIEST way would be to fly directly to Greece, but the shortest time for a direct/non-stop flight is 9 from EWR to ATH, but the 9hrs worries me. I have two larger dogs (a Lab and a Shepherd mix) and wouldn’t want the stress or possible temperature to affect them negatively. I have nightmares about this. The other option would be JFK to Paris and pick them up in Paris, get a EU Pet Passport and drive to Greece (long drive, but could make a trip of it). Any thoughts? Any airlines have better track records?

  11. Hi. I am planning to travel by plane from Oslo, Norway, to Newark in late March/early April with a 4-5 month old border collie who will probably have to fly in cargo for the 8 hour flight on SAS. We live in Bergen, but will travel by train to Oslo to avoid plane changes. I’m rather nervous about how such a young pup will handle the flight. Are there extra precautions/preparations I should make? Thank you!

  12. Linda – you need to know the requirements when importing a dog to Hong Kong: Depending on the country you are entering from, there could be quarantine. Your dog must arrive in HK as air cargo, so you will be dealing with the cargo department of an airline that flies the entire route. As a pet owner, you need to acclimate your Beagle to its crate; this can take a long time depending on your dog’s personality. More details here: Select a topic from CARGO/CHECKED BAGGAGE.

  13. I may be relocating from the USA to Hong Kong. I would be taking my beagle/spaniel mix with me (approx. 35 pounds). I am very concerned as I have never taken her on a plane before and she tends to be anxious when not with me. I was looking at maybe Cathay Pacific airline. Perhaps you could advise me/put my mind at ease??

  14. Hi, I have a 1-year-old Pomeranian, he will be flying in the cargo for 15 hours or 16 hours. I am very nervous for him. Are there any ways to calm him down before the flight? We are flying on December 31st so I am not sure of how much warmth I must give him. Can I put on a sweater for him or do I just put a few blankets in his crate? I’m not sure of what to put in his crate for him. Thanks a lot, please answer soon.

  15. Lisa – if your Spaniel is flying as accompanied checked baggage, then you will check it at the ticket counter in LHR and claim it at baggage claim at BOS. If it is flying as air cargo, you will drop if off and pick it up at your airline’s cargo facility.

  16. I would like to travel from LHR to Boston with my 16 month old Springer Spaniel. Do you have any specific tips/opinions about the drop off and collection at either airport?

  17. Dhenz – when the airlines have live animals traveling as checked baggage, they do everything they can to keep animals traveling with their owners. The fees for this type of travel are much less than air cargo and, basically, the airlines do not want to be responsible for holding pets for the next flight. What we can say is that you can confirm that your cats will be boarded when you check in. If they cannot be boarded, you should have the option to defer to the next flight so you can stay with your cats. Make sure they have plenty of water as they are a snub-nosed breed and subject to dehydration when flying.

  18. Hi. We are traveling from Riyadh to Philippines hopefully by next week. We inquired today at the Philippine Airlines regarding on their pet travel policies. I’m worried on what the agent told us that there will be 2 reasons that our 2 persian cats will be denied to travel if: there’s no plane ventilation (I’m sure there is) and if there’s a body remain scheduled on the said flight. We will just know this things during check in time only. I’m worried if this factors will happen, we can’t bring our babies with us.

  19. Amanda – first of all, you need to get your dogs microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies with a 1 year rabies vaccination. If you are returning to Spain with them, wait for 30 days and have your veterinarian do a rabies titer test. Get them EU Pet Passports and have the results recorded in the Passports. That way, you can return to Spain and not have the 3 month wait.

    You can find requirements to enter Cambodia here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: You will need to wait at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination before traveling. The other vaccinations should be administered as well.

    Your dogs may be able to fly as accompanied checked baggage depending on their size and weight, but if they are too large, they must fly as air cargo. In that case, you will be dealing with the cargo company of a commercial airline. Routing will be tricky and we would caution about flying Air France as they require that pets be claimed and rechecked on every layover. The airlines will not interline pets so when you change airline companies, you must claim and recheck your pets. You may want to consider flying Emirates out of Madrid.

  20. Hi there please could you give me advise on flying my dogs from málaga Spain to phonm pehn Cambodia via Paris. ..3 large dogs..first time I have ever transported pets so a little concerned for it 3months before flying they have to be vaccinated ? Are their special water container you have to have for them in their crates? Any information would be a great help many thanks ps I have a contact in Cambodia that can do their papers before travelling that is needed…also one more thing iv never kept my pets vaccines up to date as they don’t mix with other dogs…how do I overcome this on their passports

  21. Dima – you must not change airline companies in London from TAP to British Airways. Your dogs will need to clear customs in London and that takes a long time and is expensive because an agent must handle the transit. Best to put them on another airline that flies your route directly or avoids the UK.

  22. Please I am travelling by tap Portugal airline and I will pass transit to uk so its tap to British airway.. I have to 2 pets dogs please I just i need to know are they acceptable on the plane atleast cargo they are acceptable from Bissau to lisbon by tap airway in cabin but I
    Am not sure if they are acceptable in cargo at least tap to British airway.. Transit.. They are small dogs.. Waiting ur reply please I need to know..

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  25. Vashka – what cities/countries are you traveling from and to? What airline are you flying? Many dogs and cats take long trips. Generally, if the layover is more than 3 hours, the airlines will walk, water and clean up your dog, but it depends on the facilities available to them in the layover airport. We would advise flying KLM through Amsterdam or Lufthansa through Frankfurt where great facilities are available and your dog can still transit the country. Not sure if these airlines fly your route.

  26. I have a 5 month old Siberian Husky. All his paperwork is set as far as passport for up to date shots and flying international but I’m worried as the travel we have planned is very long distance (28 hrs with one stop over / 18 hr then 6hr flight) is the shortest flight I could find 🙁

    My main concern is bathroom. He is kind of a clean freak puppy and I’m scared to have him be basically sleeping in his own feces or urine. I’ve tried to find other transport crates but they all look the same and I don’t know why the bathroom situation is something no one is asking.

    At the moment he is 14kg… is there a way I can just buy a seat for him instead? And if that’s a possibility is there dog diapers since I’m with him and can clean him? It’s just so new to me. Thanks in advance <3

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