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 — 170 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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! 🙂

  3. 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: 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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-

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. Mariah – have you prepared your dogs to enter Hawaii? We mention this only because the requirements are significant. ( 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

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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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