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



Add a Comment

By Sydney on March 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm

I have decided to rescue a dog from Montana and I live in la Vegas and not sure the first thing to do to get her here. I don’t mind flying her here which is why I’m confused on the first steps

By Maegan at PetRelocation on March 15, 2018 at 8:33 am

Hi Sydney,

Thanks for reaching out! The first step is making sure she is up-to-date on vaccinations. Then you'll want to make sure you have the correct travel kennel & are choosing a pet-friendly airline. Here are some great resources about traveling with your pet domestically. It looks like our representative, Kathy, has already been in touch with you, so if there is anything else we can do, please do not hesitate to reach out! Good luck!

By christy menendez on February 23, 2018 at 11:43 am

just curious. after an animal is brought back to the building from landing to the airport. how often do you find that the animals eat, drink or end up going to the bathroom in their crates? and do they seem happy and normal from a flight?

By Christina at PetRelocation on February 26, 2018 at 11:37 am

Hi Christy! While accidents in crates do happen (especially on very long flights), this is something handlers on pet-friendly airlines look for and tend to should it occur. In our experience, most pets are completely fine after traveling in cargo, and the chances of a successful move are much higher when the pet is already comfortable and secure in their crate. We have crate training resources on our website to help with this. If you would like to see what other pet owners have to say about their experience with cargo travel, our stories page paints a more detailed picture of just how fantastic so many pets do on the journey and how well they adjust after arriving in their new homes. Hope this helps put your mind at ease!

By ken belville on February 14, 2018 at 10:06 am

I am relocating a friends pet due to his death. The Chihuahua is 8 years old and 11 pounds. I have him scheduled on a flight 2/16/18. I am using American Airlines. My concern is the representative said that the weather in Hartford and Detroit is cold this time of year. The dogs destination is Palm Springs, Ca. Should I be concerned? Thanks

By Christina at PetRelocation on February 14, 2018 at 11:14 am

Hi Ken! If we were planning a move within the US, we would first check routing options on United Airlines. Their PetSafe program ensures that every pet traveling unaccompanied is handled properly and safely, and in climate-controlled conditions. This is especially important when you’re moving a dog like a Chihuahua in winter.

If you would like one of our consultants to contact you regarding this move, we are happy to help! Please fill out this form and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

By MBK on February 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm

I have two medium terrier mixes (benji looking dogs) I am moving to Thailand. As all pet parents I am mortified at the thought. But I am trying to find out all I can. I think the issue of heat will be ok if Pet Relocation does honestly put the pets in offices and climate controlled areas in between. But Is there a Pet Relocation specialist around to ensure the care along route that might be up and down several times? Also, are dogs put on leashes and taken to relieve themselves? With a long haul like US to Thailand, it would be cruel to keep them crated in their own mess. Mine are very careful to only go outside. I can't imagine this. Can someone let me know about this?

By Christina at PetRelocation on February 12, 2018 at 11:03 am

Hello MBK, and thanks for your question! Your concerns are understandable and common. We book travel on airlines that have pet programs in place to ensure the comfort and safety of the animals in their care. This includes having a staff to handle pets before and after their flights and monitor their wellbeing. We have moved many pets to Thailand and have seen many happy and healthy reunions! Here are some travel stories of pets we’ve moved across the world. The specific nature of a pet’s layover depends on their routing and layover duration, but here is an example of what pets flying on Lufthansa through Frankfurt experience in between flights. We are happy to speak with you in more detail if you would like a complimentary consultation. Just fill out this form and somebody will contact you as soon as possible!

By Anne on January 30, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Are smaller jets such as the CR9 Canadaair RJ 900 pressurized in the cargo hold?

By Christina at PetRelocation on January 30, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Hi Anne,

Yes, they are! We fly pets on regional jets all the time. Thanks for your question!

By Mary on January 23, 2018 at 8:52 am

What is the safest airline approved kennel.

By Christina at PetRelocation on January 23, 2018 at 10:51 am

Hi Mary,

Good question! We usually recommend to our clients the Petmate Sky Kennel or the Petmate Vari Kennel, which both adhere to IATA standards. You can purchase them online or at some local retailers.

When purchasing a travel crate it’s important to choose the correct size for your pet to travel safely and comfortably. Here is a guide that lists the steps for measuring your pet and choosing the right one. Happy travels!

By Ryan on December 24, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Hi,Me and m girlfriend may be going to the US with our cat and Staffordshire terrier from the UK at somepoint. I was wondering if he was too anxious to fly if he would be not allowed to fly and what options would there be if that was the case ? I wouldn't want to sedate him or put him through it if he was far too anxious, especially as he doesn't like being by himself.

By on December 26, 2017 at 10:00 am

Hello Ryan,

Thanks for reaching out! As mentioned in the above blog, sedation is not a safe option for anxious pets. If you'd like to read more on this, please take a look at this blog.

Airlines will not fly overly anxious pets (for their safety) so your best option will be to prepare your dog for travel ahead of time. The best way to do so is to crate train him as much in advance as possible. We have tips and tricks on how to do so here. Also, consider putting an item (like an old t-shirt or blanket) in his crate that smells comforting to him or looking into pheromone sprays (natural calming remedies) to help. At the very least, talk with your vet to determine what will work best for your dog's travels.

Good luck with everything!

By Shirley c on December 21, 2017 at 1:19 am

I’m having my new puppy flown to me from Harrisburg,PA to Sacramento Ca Dec 28 she will be flying United Airlines they told the breeder that is sending her she could not have a blanket in her crate with her,.,she will be in that crate for at least 9 hours , why would they not allow a blanket? She needs some kind of padding she is 10 weeks old.

By Christina at PetRelocation on December 21, 2017 at 8:43 am

Hi Shirley,

Thanks for your question! United’s Allowed Crate Items list does include blankets, towels, or pads as long as they are 3 inches thick or less. You can view an extensive list of their crate requirements here. If your blanket is thinner than 3 inches and they won't allow it, I would contact United Airlines directly to see what the breeder can put in the crate with your puppy. Hope this helps!

Add a Comment

Name is required

Email is required and must be in the format

Comment is required

Back to top