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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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!

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