Pet Cargo Myths and Facts

dogPets Flying in Cargo: Myths and Facts

Many myths exist about shipping pets as cargo, so we thought we'd review some of them and offer solutions for easing pre-travel worries about moving with your four-legged family members.

Myth: The pet cargo hold is dangerously hot or cold.



On most flights that accept pets, the cargo area itself is climate-controlled just like the passenger cabin above. So why do airlines have temperature restrictions? While many airlines have "Weather Embargoes" during the summer/winter months, it is not because of the cargo hold temperatures.

Airlines that are not "pet friendly" take all of their cargo to the plane at one time. Animals often end up waiting on the tarmac while the cargo is loaded or unloaded. It is this wait on the tarmac that causes the Weather Embargos and can be the most dangerous to pets.

PetRelocation Solution:

We only use pet friendly airlines that keep pets in climate controlled environments throughout the entire trip. This means that we are able to move pets year-round without any temperature embargoes.

All pets are kept in a climate-controlled area of the airline's cargo offices until all of the people and luggage have been loaded on the plane. Pets are then driven out in climate-controlled vehicles and boarded on the plane, which means they are never sitting out on the tarmac waiting.

When the plane lands, the pets are the first ones off the plane and driven back to the climate-controlled area at the pet cargo offices.  

Myth: The pet cargo hold is not pressurized.



In most large "wide-bodied" aircraft, the pressure is the exact same as it is in the cabin above. 

PetRelocation Solution:

Just like we only use pet friendly airlines that keep pets in climate control, we only book pressurized flights for all live animal transportation. The air the humans breathe in cabin is the same air that is circulated through the bottom of the plane. 

Myth: Isn't it safer just to drive my pet?



Unless you are planning on driving your pet or having a friend drive your pet, it is safer and faster to send your pet by air than it is to have a ground transportation company drive them. Long distance ground transportation can be more distressing for a pet than flying, and also more potentially complex and even dangerous due to the amount of time it takes and the stopping/starting/bathroom breaks involved.

Myth: Pets should be tranquilized/sedated prior to the flight because this will help them feel less stressed.



It is unsafe to fly tranquilized/sedated pets.

  • Tranquilizers suppress the respiratory system, which makes it hard for a pet to cope with the changes in altitude and temperature. This is particularly true in "snub nosed" breeds.

  • A pet may react differently to the same drug, in the same dose, depending on his state of excitement and the altitude at which he is flying. No studies have been done to determine the effect of tranquilizers on pets at high altitudes.

PetRelocation Solution:

Crate training, crate training, crate training!

A pet that has been acclimated in advance to their pet travel crate will have much less stress when flying. Here area few tips for crate training dogs for travel and tips for crate training cats for travel

Ready to start planning your pet's safe move? Contact us to set up a consultation. 


Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2009 and has been updated with new information.


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts


Cats, Dogs



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By Milliejo hallam on March 16, 2017 at 6:37 pm

My 8lb chihuahua is flying from St Louis America and then on to new york and then flying to England. All is paid for and sorted and we know what to take. I just have some worrying pet mom questions like. Is it really dark under the plane. Is she going to be cold because she is only small.. She doesn't like being alone and she doesn't like being in the dark. Also is it really really loud under the plane??

By on April 4, 2017 at 8:37 am

Sorry for the late response to this -- from what we know, being under the plane isn't necessarily loud, it's more of a white noise sound, and you'll be happy to know that (when you choose a pet friendly airline) the cargo area is temperature and pressure controlled. The best way to prepare your pets for this experience is to crate train them in the weeks before you move. If a dog feels safe and happy in their crate, they will handle the flight with little trouble. In our experience pets do very well, even after long moves! Just let us know if you have more questions and thank you for reading! -Caitlin and the PetRelocation Team

By Wes P on March 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Milliejo hallam how did your Chihuahua go? I'm flying my two Chihuahua's very soon from Australia to Ireland with a stop over in Dubai. I'm also stressed about if they will be left on tarmac in that dessert heat with the noise. One of my boys gets very scared of everything out of his comfort zone. Was your Chihuahua okay?

By Ann on April 4, 2017 at 1:30 am

How did your pups go? I'm about to take my little dog from Australia to the US and I have the same worries as everyone else!

By on April 4, 2017 at 8:39 am

Hi Ann, Just let us know if you'd like to chat with one of our Specialists! We move pets safely every day and would be happy to address your concerns. Also, reading over our pet travel stories can be helpful, too: Happy travels and please let us know if we can assist with anything!

By Sara davis on May 2, 2017 at 6:18 am

Hey. We too are looking at taking our pug from Australia to Ireland and we are panic stricken!!! We have looked at boat travel and QE2 goes from New York to Southampton and air Canada allow tiny dogs to stay in the cabin in a crate under seat in front of you. But our dog can't do any of those things so we have to fly him. Looking at flying through Canada or something so cooler weather hoping it means less chance of heat exposure!!! Let me know how you go or if you find out any other info

By on May 2, 2017 at 9:05 am

Hi Sara, the most important things are to crate train your dog, choose a pet friendly airline, and discuss your dog's health with your vet before traveling. Just let us know if you'd like to discuss your options with one of our Specialists!

By Sarah on October 28, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Hi, what route have you looked at. I am flying Melbourne to UK in march/may 2018 and also worried about the heat of Dubai around that time (where they unload most dogs) and have looked at Uk straight through from Perth so that the dog isn't unloaded from the aircon hold at all. Which route did you chose and how much did it all cost you, I am looking at $4800 straight through to London.

By Toolie mcferran on May 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Moving to the big island of Hawaii and bringing 3 basset hounds. They are not used to any form of cage and one of the dogs has Addison's disease where he gets stressed over everything. So nervous about the cargo travel. Hawaii from Seattle is 6 hours on direct flight. I keep hearing about all these animals dying from heat stroke.............please let me know who else has made this move. Thanks

By on May 2, 2017 at 8:55 am

Hi Toolie, we certainly understand your worries! Pet travel is no small undertaking, and we know that your dogs are your family. First, we do recommend crate training your dogs in the weeks before you travel. The more they can get used to their crates, the better off they'll be during their journey. We also recommend discussing your dog's health concerns with your vet and choosing a pet friendly airline that uses temperature controlled vehicles (know also that the cargo area is temperature controlled). Finally, since you're going to Hawaii it's important to understand and follow the rules carefully, as they're stricter than those for other US states: Hope this helps! Just let us know if you have any questions and good luck with everything.

By Kristin on June 17, 2017 at 9:10 am

Hi, My cat and I moved to the UK from Seattle two years ago and are set to move home in September. My cat has had a reoccurring bout of pneumonia that may or may not have resulted in asthma. I'm praying he'll be deemed "fit to fly", given that he is, is British Air a carrier that will keep him in air conditioning on the tarmac? I'm most concerned about when he lands in Seattle- it will be 9am when we take off- but 1pm when we land, and could still be quite hot that time of year in Seattle. Also, can I attach his inhaler to his crate, and would they administer it if he was panting? Thanks!

By on June 19, 2017 at 8:47 am

Hi Kristin, thanks for reaching out!

For a case like this we definitely recommend discussing your cat's health with your vet to see if they have any additional thoughts/recommendations for keeping your cat safe during travel. We also highly recommend choosing a pet friendly airline (such as United), as their PetSafe program will ensure that your cat is not left to sit on the tarmac at any time.

In our experience, medicine can be accommodated on a case by case basis, and again, you'll have more luck with an airline that has a pet safe program.

We'd be happy to assist with your move if you're looking for some help! Just let us know if you'd like to set up a consultation, and either way good luck with everything.


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