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 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.

By claudio azevedo on October 7, 2017 at 9:16 am

On the blog I did read: "climate-controlled just like the passenger cabin above". What airplane is that? I am an airline captain, flew B727 737 767 MD11 DC10 A330 A350 and only some of them have THE OPTION to buy with full A/C just like the pax cabin. Most of them have only HEATERS, that is all, if it is hot it is gonna stay hot for a long time.

By on October 9, 2017 at 7:31 am

Hello Claudio, thanks for reaching out!

We only work with pet-friendly airlines, like Lufthansa or KLM, to move pets. The pilots on these flights are informed when pets are on-board to switch on the A/C as necessary. Many airlines will not fly pets on planes that do not have this option (and thus do not have pet programs like the airlines we work with), as it risks the safety of the pets on board.

I hope this clears things up for you!

By Silvia on October 3, 2017 at 11:41 am

Hello, how many times a year at most do you recommend to fly your dog overseas? How about smaller distances? Also, how can I know that my dog won't be scared or feel anxious during his first flights, even after having him gotten used to the crate? Moreover, is there a "right" age for the dog to start flying? Thank you in andvance!

By on October 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Hello Silvia, thanks for your questions!

How often your dog will be able to travel is really up to how your dog handles traveling and what you and your vet believe is in his best interest. Not every pet handles travel the same way - some are completely unfazed, while others need more time to adjust after travels. We would recommend seeing how your dog reacts to a first move overseas before planning to move him again, especially if the move is coming up sooner rather than later.

As you mentioned, crate training is an important aspect of helping your dog feel less anxious throughout his journey. Many of our clients choose to take their dog (in the travel kennel) for a car ride through multiple scenarios (car washes, railroad tracks etc.) to simulate the sounds and bumps of a flight. This is something we would recommend trying if you feel confident your dog is already comfortable with his travel crate.

Finally, we as a company would not recommend flying pets below the age of 16 weeks for health and safety reasons. Beyond this, there is no specific age requirement.

We hope this helps, Silvia! If you need help planning your dog's move, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here and we'd be happy to speak with you.

By Cecilia on September 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

Hello, We are planning a move to Kenya. You have answered most of my questions but what about a 24 hour travel time. Do the animals get out to pee? Can we go see our animal at our three hour layover in Europe? Also, are there any liners that absorb urine and turn it into gel (Like the panties for incontinence)? I'm afraid my dog won't get out enough and I don't want him lying in his urine for 10 hours. Thanks in advance!

By on October 2, 2017 at 8:44 am

Hello Cecilia, thanks for reaching out!

Most airlines will not allow pets to travel for more than 18 hours without some sort of break. It sounds like your dog has a layover in Europe, which if he is traveling with KLM or Lufthansa this means he will get let out of his kennel, taken for a walk, and provided with water. We recommend reaching out to the specific airline you're using for his travels to ask specifically about his care during his stop.

As for absorbent material inside the kennel, we recommend puppy pads under some sort of bedding (kennel pad or t-shirt) to help with this. The airlines will clean this out if messy during his stop and provide new absorbent material to help.

We hope this helps, Cecilia! Please let us know if you need anything else and we hope your dog has a safe journey ahead!

By Lauren on August 29, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Could you please tell me what airlines you recommend are pet friendly? I used British Airways to travel my pet before but I am not going back to the UK and would prefer a direct flight to the new destination but obviously only with a pet friendly airline. Thanks, Lauren

By on August 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Hello Lauren,

We work with airlines like United, Lufthansa, and KLM. Keep in mind that most of these pet-friendly airlines do not offer direct routing for pets. For example, all pet bookings with Lufthansa have a stop at the Frankfurt Animal Lounge in order for the airline to ensure the pet is handling the trip well.

I hope this helps! If you need further guidance on routing options, please feel free to contact us. Best of luck with your travels ahead!

By Dora on June 23, 2017 at 11:04 am

I am planning on going to California I live forever n Missouri I was wondering about taking my two bunnies on the plane they will have to travel by cargo one of my bunnies gets anxiety very bad she doesn't like loud noises what is your recommendation

By on June 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

Hi Dora, thanks for the question!

Rabbits can definitely be sensitive travelers, so before anything we recommend talking to your vet to discuss whether or not flying them is a good idea.

If you decide to proceed, it's important to choose a pet friendly airline, to use an approved and secure travel crate, and to help your rabbits get used to the crate if they aren't already.

Please read more about rabbit travel here and let us know if you'd like some assistance. Good luck!


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.


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.

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