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. PetTravel.com 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.


Comments

Pet Travel: Pointers for keeping your pets safe in cargo — 195 Comments

  1. hi fellas 🙂 I’m going to take my dog for the first time to a holiday in july I want to take him to the beach *-* Im so soooo happy but when i think about him being in the cargo i just cant :((( did anyone travel with the dogs on plan? how did it go? many thanks

  2. Cherie – most airlines will require a rest stop after 8-9 hours although it depends on the route and the facilities available to your airline in the layover city. If you are flying Lufthansa or KLM, for example, then they have excellent facilities in FRA and AMS respectively. You may want to discuss this with your airline.
    Susan

  3. I keep reading that direct flights are recommended. But if direct flight exceeds 15 hours for dog checked as excess baggage, would a long layover be better?

  4. Maria – As the trip is 28 hours, Emirates will need to give your cat a rest stop. You should discuss their facility in Dubai to see what kind of services they can offer your kitty. Yes, the pilot will know that your kitty is in the hold as it will show up on the manifest for that flight. The manifest is basically a list of what is contained in the cargo hold. As your cat will be included in the manifest, the airline will track your kitty for the entire trip. Live animals are a priority for the airlines and they cannot fly them unless the aircraft is pressurized and temperature controlled.
    Susan

  5. Hello experts! My 6 yr old cat is flying from Greece to Australia in less than a month, via Dubai, with Emirates. I am moving there but will not be on the same flight with him. My question is, will the pilot know that my cat will be in the cargo hold? I am anxious because I won’t be there to remind them on any of the two flights. Also, my cat is generally stressful. I have crate trained him and it’s going well, but I can’t help stressing out about the day he travels. Will he be ok on 28-hour trip? (including his stopover). Any recommendations are welcome. Thank you.

  6. Zoe – in order for your MaltiPoo to fly with British Airways, it will need to fly as air cargo through IAG Cargo and an agent will be required to book the transport. Lufthansa will fly your MaltiPoo out of London in the cabin or as checked baggage which will be more convenient and less expensive. You can clear customs at FRA very easily with an EU Pet Passport and take a rest stop before the long trip to MEX if you want. US-based airlines are not a good alternative because the flight is too long. KLM may also be an option for you.
    Susan

  7. Hi,
    this thread is great. I have a small dog (5.6kg) MaltiPoo, 3 years old. I am looking to relocate to Mexico City from London. The flight time is 11 hours. Is this too long a time period for him to travel for? I will need to check him as Cargo with British Airways, but I’m so worried that he will be thirsty/hungry/temperature. How does it work so they have water? The best information I have been given from the entire internet is reading this thread! Or would you recommend that I take him to LONDON – NEW YORK (7 hours) then stay over night and take him NY – MEXICO.
    Also, any crate recommendations would be great, hes not crate trained but I have 3/4 months still to get there. thanks 🙂 Zoe

  8. Hi – My puppy will be flying direct from Copenhagen to EWR via SAS/Trustforwarding. I have the waybill number, but am not sure whether I will have to pick the puppy up from the terminal or from the SAS cargo facility. I will not be on the flight. Do you have any idea where I’ll need to go, and how soon after the plane’s arrival I can expect to be able to retrieve my puppy? Thank you.

  9. Sayak – all live animals transiting or entering London must do so as air cargo. It is wise to avoid London if at all possible.
    Susan

  10. Hi Experts, I an Indian citizen living in US. I am planning to take my Cat in cabin with Lufthansa (via Frankfurt) or with Air Canada(Via Heathrow) to India as part of my permanent relocation. Can anyone confirm if Heathrwo allows in-cabin cat in transit? What’s the case with Frankfurt? I am very scared of taking him in cargo hold. Please suggest. Thank you.

  11. Ali – Seven hours is a long layover and, unless the airline has a facility in your layover airport (like Lufthansa has in Frankfurt) they will likely require that you claim your pup. If you are flying to Munich on Lufthansa, your pup cannot transit at that airport. If you are flying Lufthansa to FRA, and your pup is flying as checked baggage, you will need to contact them to see if they will accept your pet at their facility during the layover if you are flying onward. If you decide to take the train from Germany to Estonia, you will need the EU health certificate for Germany which will be good to enter other countries on your way home.
    Susan

  12. We are planning to move back to Estonia from Panama with our new mixed 8-month-old puppy (weights 26 pounds). The flight is 11 hours long to Germany and then, a 3-hour flight to Northern Europe. The layover between both can be very long, it could be 7 hours. She was found on the side of the highway inside a box and we don’t have anybody here that could take her. She is already spayed and has her first rabies shot, we are preparing to do the titer test. We are also considering travelling by train from Germany, as most trains in Europe accept dogs and we are not sure if the smaller aircraft would be able to accommodate her large crate. Do you have any advice for me? We are also considering a pet relocation service but our budget is very limited. Thank you very much.

  13. Jen – difficult to answer not knowing about your pet, but we will say that, generally, it is wise to take the most direct flight from point A to point B. Twelve hours seems like a lot; however, your pet will likely spend a lot of time resting/sleeping during the flight to the “drone” of the engines. The less handling, the better.
    Susan

  14. RAB – it should not be a problem flying your smaller Boston Terrier in the cabin. As for the larger of the two, unfortunately, it is too large to fly in the cabin and there is no US-based airline that will fly it either as checked baggage or as air cargo (both classes of service require that pets fly in the cargo hold). This is a snub-nosed breed and the airlines do not want to take the risk involved flying them in the cargo hold. Your other options would be ground transport or private jet charter.
    Susan

  15. Hello, would you recommend a 12 hour flight with no stops (Zurich to LAX), or a stop with a layover? On one hand, direct flight is fewer take off, landing and waiting on tarmac. on the other hand 12 hours is long..thanks for yoru thoughts/advice

  16. I am going on vacation from California to Florida in June. I have 2 small boston terriers that I want to take with me. I am trying to figure out the best way for them to travel. I am not sure if I can buy 2 passenger cabin seats and bring them in the cabin? My one is 10lbs and would fit under the seat. The other is 20lbs and bigger so maybe will not fit under the seat.

  17. Malinda – as per commercial airlines require, your dogs and cat will be flying in the cargo hold as air cargo. If they do not have crates and are not acclimated to them, then you should get IATA-compliant pet crates for them as soon as possible. These are the best made for airline travel: https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-crates/. You can find tips on acclimating them here: https://www.pettravel.com/blog/index.php/what-you-must-do-before-traveling-with-a-pet/. Another thing you should do is get them a good pet pad. We have wonderful, reusable pet pads that you can see when you look at the crates and they are also discounted. (not trying to sell here, but our store supports our website). These pads will keep your pets dry should they urinate when traveling. As for eliminating in their crates, you can control this by cutting down on their food as you approach travel day. You should not feed them less than 6 hours before traveling (about half their normal ration) and give them a good walk before heading to the airport. Do not withhold water as hydration is very important. With all the steps you take, if there is an accident, take a small towel with you for clean ups. https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-travel-towels/
    Susan

  18. Hello! My husband and I will be moving to the UK from America in a few months, and I’m working on getting all of their documents in order. I’m just wondering what a trip like that would be like for my dogs and cat, whether I’ll even see them during my layovers, and if I DON’T, what happens if they pee or poop in their carrier?

  19. Gabriela – first of all, the United States is very pet friendly and no quarantine will be imposed on your dog either before or after traveling. It will need proof of current rabies vaccination and a health certificate issued by a licensed vet in Romania. Your dog will need to fly in an IATA-compliant pet crate like these: https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-crates/. There is a link on the page that explains how to measure your dog for its crate.

    The layover in Lisbon is very long and you should consider claiming your dog and taking it outside for a walk, and watering unless TAP can do this for you. If you do claim your dog, you will need to clear customs in Lisbon. Your dog will need an EU Pet Passport from Romania showing current rabies vaccination after a microchip was implanted. If your dog is not currently chipped or vaccinated, it must wait for 21 days before traveling after the chip and/or vaccination is given.

    The trick to minimize the chances of having an accident in the pet crate are to start cutting down your dog’s meals slowly before departure. You should not feed it more than half its normal ration and not more than 6 hours before flight time. Also, take time for a good walk before going to the airport. Water should not be limited and getting a good pet pad or lots of shredded newspaper can help with this. No feeding during flight or in Lisbon as this will stimulate the bowels. You can always stop by a PetSmart for a quick bath before heading to Florida. There are lots of good tips on flying with a pet here: https://www.pettravel.com/news-airline-pet-travel.cfm.
    Susan

  20. We are moving our family to the United States, from Romania, where we live now, together with our German Shepherd. Our biggest concern is: is Romania considered a high risk country for rabies or not, in which case we would have had to quarantine him for three months prior to our travel. He is up to date on his vaccination since birth (he is now 2 yrs old)
    We just found out about this yesterday and our flight is on the 29th with Tap Portugal so there is no time for quarantine. Lay over in Lisbon for approx 18 hrs. Flying from Budapest arriving in Newark International.
    We are really green about flying with a dog.
    My daughter rescued him as a puppy from our barn fire and since, he has been part of the family, more or less. We (especially our 8 children!) can’t bear to leave him behind.
    He is a very obedient dog and we want to know if it is doable or it is too hard to travel with him.
    My husband’s worst nightmare about this is: a dog that for ten hours will be going to the bathroom in his cage, and when we would get to the States we would have to smell dog doo on our dog all the way down from Newark to Florida (we are driving a big passenger van to our final destination in Florida ).
    Would you please give us all the advise you can muster?

  21. Kaye – we can understand your concern about your Pom flying in the cargo hold. Remember that millions of live animals are flown in the cargo hold each year safely. You don’t hear about those. The first thing is health. Your Pom should be healthy to fly. Secondly, you need to get it a good crate, not flimsy, and use hardware to bolt it together. Be sure and use zip ties on the door when you check your pet in. Why? Because pets are most at risk if they can escape their carriers. This is not the place to cut corners. Thirdly, get your Pom acclimated to its crate. This will lessen the stress on travel day as your Pom will be familiar with its crate and see it as a “safe place.” Put a “used” t-shirt of yours in with your Pom so that it can smell your scent. Do not sedate your Pom as that will affect its breathing. More tips here: https://www.pettravel.com/news_pet_travel_airline_cargo.cfm
    Susan

  22. i will be flying my dog from the philippines to new york. my dog is a 2 year old pomeranian. i dont know if he’s safe to travel because i heard a lot of stories dying in the cargo and especially a flight this long i dont know if my dog can take it. he usually just sleeps though and very well behaved. i just dont want to risk him flying to new york and something might happen to him in the cargo:(

  23. Jennifer – we do have self-warming crates pads available here that use your puppy’s body heat and radiate the warmth back to your puppy: https://www.pettravelstore.com/self-warming-pet-crate-pads/. We will mention that all airlines have temperature restrictions for live animals flying in the cargo hold. If temperatures fall below 45 degrees F (7 degrees C), the airlines will not fly them. There is such a thing as an acclimation certificate that your vet will fill out if your puppy is accustomed to lower temperatures. (https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-passport-acclimation-certificate/) You need to confirm with your airline that they will accept the acclimation certificate.
    Susan

  24. So I have to travel in Dec. 6th within Canada. my pup is 8 months old to big to go up in the cabin with me! Just wondering what’s the best way of trying to keep him warm inside his crate I checked the weather Temps for that day the coldest is going to be around -15 degrees Celsius outside. I have a sweater for him just what can I place on the floor of the crate

  25. Tania – check your airline’s pet policies regarding the number of cats that are permitted per passenger. The best thing that you can do for yourself and your cats is to take the time to acclimate them to their carrier. If they have not been in a carrier before, then get the carriers as soon as possible and make them available to your cats. Feed them in the carrier. Encourage them to sleep in the carrier. The time you spend before your trip will pay off in making the trip enjoyable for your cats.
    Susan

  26. Hello! I will be flying from Mauritius to Montreal with my dog and my 3 cats. I am positive that my dog will be ok in checked luggage, but my vet told me cats might become too nervous to fly as checked luggage… I am looking for people who have done it and can confirm their cat are allright! 🙂

  27. It is not likely that the airlines would allow both of your dogs in the same carrier. As to the barking, see if you can find an all-natural pet calmer like these: https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calmers/. These have herbs that do not affect dog’s breathing; they just take the edge off. If you can find something, try it at home before traveling. If not, then speak with your veterinarian but know that many airlines will not accept a pet who has been obviously sedated. As to your other questions, the length of time that animals can spend in flight depends on animal welfare regulations in the country your airline is based. Generally, the best thing to do is to get your pet to its destination as quickly as possible with the least amount of landings and handling. This would apply unless your flight is very long and then a rest stop would be advised. Changing airline companies on the layover is not advised as it will complicate your trip.
    Susan

  28. Hi! im planning moving from Buenos Aires to New york with my two dogs. They are medium size and are not pure breed- dont know the exact word in english to describe my dogs – but neither of them are agressive at all.
    One of them, just barks when he stresses or is left alone in unknown places but he can be easily calmed if someone is around and pet him, like i said not agressive at all.
    What can i do to make the travel less stressfull for him. Can they be put in the same kennel? my other dog is very calm and actually helps my other dog to feel more at ease.
    They are medium size both and are around the age of 3 years old.
    Whats the most time a dog can take flying in cargo? if i should divide my itinerary into sectios how many sections should be? or is it worst the more he has to change planes?
    Will the airhostess check up on him if i ask her to?
    Or if he barks to loud, can the captain deny him to travel?
    Thanks for your help.

  29. Ariadna – the airlines will not accept your dog if he shows aggressive behavior. Barking, likely not, but hard to respond without knowing the size and breed of your dog.
    Susan

  30. Ariadna – we need to know your route (city to city) and your pet’s breed and size to respond to your question. If your dog is flying in the cargo hold, your airline will not encourage sedation and may not accept your dog if sedated. You may want to speak with your veterinarian about this after verifying your airline’s pet policy regarding sedation.
    Susan

  31. if my dogs begins barking which he usually does when he is in stress can the airline ban him from traveling with me?

  32. Im planning moving from argentina to the U.S i have a dog thats very nervous when left alone. do you recomend a direct fly and sedate him or dividing my itinerary into sections.
    How much can a dog handle on a plane-

  33. Sofia – According to IATA Live Animal Regulations (which include regulations used by airlines worldwide), Chapter 7, “the Captain must be advised of the species, location and quantity of all live cargo on board the aircraft” so that they can adjust the temperature, light and ventilation in the cargo hold. You may want to direct your inquiry directly to your airlines.
    Susan

  34. I am wondering if Pets flying in Cargo will be left in complete darkness or will there be some kind of dimlights? Does it differ from airline to airline or are there specific rules to follow concerning light in Cargo when transporting Pets? If it is pitch black and you have a dog afraid of the dark, what do you suggest? Car is not a option as we are moving and it is not a vacation. The flight is 6 h then overnight stay and then again 13 h.

  35. If your pet is flying as air cargo, then, yes, an agent will be needed to book the transport. If your pet is flying as accompanied checked baggage in the cargo hold, we do not believe an agent is necessary. Your airline would decide that.
    Susan

  36. Leslye – we would recommend a direct flight to Paris on Air France. The more landings and handling, the more stress on your dog. If your flight was 20 hours, then a rest stop would be advised. US-based airlines will not fly your pup in the hold as the flight is too long.
    Susan

  37. Our 3 yr old terrier mix will be flying from San Francisco to Paris France. Would you recommend an overnight stay in New York or a nonstop flight?

  38. Lynn – ideally, your dogs should be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to traveling. They should also have an EU Pet Passport or a current health certificate. Although the CDC and USDA do not require rabies vaccinations to clear customs, the laws regarding this are administered on the State level. As for your airlines, be careful with your breed as they are snub-nosed and few airlines will transport them. Lufthansa will if they fly your route.
    Susan

  39. I am moving from the uk to the USA flying into Raleigh Durham North Carolina. Has anyone ever flown their dogs into RDU what are cargo facilities like? I will hope to be on the same flight trying to organise through a specialist. I have two boxers.
    How long does the gap have to be after rabies before travel? And info will help me

  40. Mariah – have you prepared your dogs to enter Hawaii? We mention this only because the requirements are significant. (https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/Hawaii.cfm) As to your question, if your dogs are not brachycephalic, (snub-nosed) and they don’t have health issues and can withstand the stress of traveling and if they are acclimated to their crates, they should do fine. Millions of live animals are transported each year in the cargo hold without incident. Make sure they have big water bowls attached to the doors of their crate and good pet pads. (we have large bowls and great pads in our store https://www.pettravelstore.com)
    Susan

  41. I’m traveling round trip from South Carolina to Hawaii with my dogs. I’ve used Alaska airlines traveling with them for a previous trip.

    I’m worried about the long hour flight, there’s usually about a 1-2 layover (average flight usual between 12-18 hours). I am EXTREMELY worried as they’ve never been on such a long flight (only 5 hours).

    Is it a good idea to bring them on this trip? How many hours can a dog withstand the conditions of being in cargo?

  42. Gail – Delta has just lowered its maximum temperature to 80 degrees. The temperature must not exceed that anywhere along the route. After mid to late September the temperatures should begin to fall.
    Susan

  43. I will be moving from Orange Co, Calif. to South Carolina. I plan on flying Delta. I can be flexible with the date.
    When is the best time of year when considering temperatures in the cargo hold?
    How do they handle plane changes when having to layover?

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