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 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!

By Pete Smart on December 17, 2017 at 2:44 am

I need to get 2 bunnies from Michigan to New York, what airline is best ,I'm assuming a half day travel! Any help is appreciated. Thanks Pete

By Christina at PetRelocation on December 18, 2017 at 11:06 am

Hello, Pete,

Thanks for your question! As long as they aren’t Continental Giant Rabbits, we suggest looking into United Airlines routes from Michigan to New York. This guide will help get you started with booking United pet travel. United airlines allows rabbits in-cabin, so this could be an option for you. Depending on your own schedule and ability to accompany them on the same flight, you can also move your rabbits by booking them as manifest cargo with United’s PetSafe program, which follows many guidelines that ensure the safety and comfort of your pet throughout the entire process. Hope this helps!

By Mike P. on December 8, 2017 at 10:48 pm

To all those asking about what it is like underneath for your pet. Every Boeing and Airbus aircraft only has baggage holds that are pressurized. Unpressurized is still seen on smaller "turboprop" aircraft in places like the nose of a Dash 8. No airline will put an animal in an unpressurized compartment.As for temperature, some planes are better and more equipped than others. Newer models (777, 787, A330, A350, A380) are able to to have the cargo area exactly like the passenger deck. Other aircraft will be able to keep the deck at closer to 15 Celsius (59 F). This is safe for most animals, though smaller breeds and hairless may be uncomfortable. As such, some airlines have breed restrictions for each type (snub nose animals are also likely to be restricted).Is it dark? Yes, just about all of the aircraft only have lights on when the door is open, but some can be overridden and crews will do this on live animal flights. Th ere is no guarantee though. I recommend getting some glow sticks and attaching them to the inside of the crate. It is a functional night light for your pet and not anything that will cause security or hazard concerns.Is it loud? Not any louder than where you sit. Landing gear "thumps might be a bit more pronounced due to proximity, but aren't very loud and only happen twice in the flight.Oxygen. The aircraft is pressurized, but there aren't masks that will come down for your pet. Sorry. One pressure is released, the pilot will start a quick dive for 10,000 feet or below. Your mask is to keep you from passing out during this time. Honestly, your pet may pass out, but the time to get to a safe altitude is quick and your pet will likely be fine once they get to the thicker air. Cabin depressurizations are EXTREMELY RARE! There are far more important things to worry how to not get gouged on your latte before your flight.

By on December 11, 2017 at 9:13 am

Hello Mike,

Thanks for providing further insight into what the cargo hold is like. You're right that many airlines have restrictions for pets based on their ability to offer care and most restrict snub-nosed breeds due to health concerns.

While the glow sticks are a fantastic idea, we do want to let clients know that they may not be TSA compliant, which means they will be removed prior to boarding on the flight. Also, airlines are very strict about what can go in the kennel with your pet and do not want anything that could end up being a possible safety (choking) hazard.

Thanks again for the insight, Mike!

By Anne on November 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

Just want to say a big thank you for your article and all the friendly answers you provide to everyone's questions.

By on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

Hello Anne,

We're glad we can help! We know pet travel and moving are stressful events and want to do what we can to alleviate this stress for owners.

Thank you for noticing and thank you for taking the time to comment. Please let us know if there is anything we can specifically help you with.

By belle on November 4, 2017 at 10:16 am

Hi! Thanks for the article it has been very helpful to know these information. I am traveling with a 1 year old west highland terrior who is crate trained in her traveling crate. We will be flying from los angeles to taipei (13 hour flight). Im wondering if a dog her size (~10 pounds) and breed typically do okay on flights as long as these. It will also be quite cold since we are flying in january, but she does better in the cold and i'll prep lots of blankets. Im just afraid of her panicking during the flight, do they normally calm down after a while? If she is perfectly healthy is there anyway she could still experience trouble on the flight? do they get traumatized for life?

By on November 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Hi Belle, we certainly understand your worries!

Pet travel is no small undertaking, and we know that your dog is part of your family. First, we do recommend crate training your dog in the weeks before you travel. The more she can get used to her crate, the better off she'll be during the journey.

With the right preparation, she will just sleep throughout the flight and will adjust to the new location after a few days of jet lag. If you need more reassurance, please browse through some of our recent stories to hear how other pets handled long trips like this.

Hope this helps! Just let us know if you have any questions and good luck with everything.

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