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 Jane Cassar on April 19, 2018 at 3:16 am

My dog is travelling as accompany luggage with Air Malta. Is there temperature control for them

By Maegan at PetRelocation on April 19, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jane! Thanks for your question. We've never experienced a pet flying on Air Malta before. My best suggestion would be to contact the airline for clarification. If you'd like suggestions of airlines we typically partner with for pet travel, please check out this blog post here. And if you'd like a quote for our door-to-door services, please click on this Arrange A Move Form. Thanks again!

By Ellen on April 9, 2018 at 9:33 pm

My dog has flown from CA to Europe 4 times and for the most part it has not been too hard on either the dog or us. However, after the TSA inspects the crate, the dog inside the crate is wheeled off by airport staff on one of those airline baggage carts that are not even flat and it makes her water slosh all over the place. I never know what happens to our dog once she is wheeled away. Exactly what kind of equipment is used to transport the dog inside the crate through the airport and onto the plane? The total weight of the dog and the crate exceeds 100 lbs. Is it just a couple of guys lifting the crate, or do they have some special equipment? Likewise, at the end of the flight, I find the dog sitting on a platform in her crate but cannot take her out until she clears customs. I have to muscle the crate and dog onto another baggage cart and am always close to dropping her. How do airport personnel manage this?

By Mogli on April 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm

We're planning to move to Dubai in summer (August) is it safe to travel there with our dog at this time of the the year because of the temperatures. I hate that he has to fly cargo but there's no other way when moving to Dubai, right?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on April 12, 2018 at 10:57 am

Hi Mogli, You are correct. Dubai requires all pets to travel as “manifest cargo” on their own plane ticket. It is important to choose a petsafe airline that has pet policies in place. If this is the case, most of them do not have temperature restrictions as they travel in the special pet-hold in the bottom on commercial airlines which is perfectly safe as long as your pet is healthy! The temperature ranges anywhere between 73 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the hold where the pets are flying. The pets on the flight are actually breathing the same air as the passengers on-top, it is the exact same conditions for pets as it is for humans. If you'd like more information about our services, please fill out our Arrange a Move Form here. Hope this helps!

By Maegan at PetRelocation on April 11, 2018 at 11:23 am

Hi Mogli, Thanks for your question. All pets must arrive into Dubai as "manifest cargo". This is perfectly safe as long as you are choosing a pet safe carrier & your pet is healthy. .This blog post about pets traveling in cargo might be helpful to you. If you'd like a consultation, please fill out our  Arrange a Move Form here. Thanks!

By Theresa on March 15, 2018 at 6:19 pm

I wish to fly my large dog to NZ from the U.K. I am deeply concerned about his wellbeing. Where will he pee & poop? Will someone be checking on him? He is 11 years old & stresses out with load unknown noises.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on March 19, 2018 at 9:46 am

Hi Theresa,

New Zealand requires all pets to travel as “manifest cargo” on their own plane ticket. They travel in the special pet-hold in the bottom on commercial airlines which is perfectly safe as long as your pet is healthy! However, no one is available to check on him while he is flying as there are no windows or seats down there. The airlines only accept 5 pets per flight so it is all very humane.

The more comfortable your pet feels in their “travel home” the better trip they will have, so we recommend getting this in advance.

Feel free to check out these videos about How to choose the right travel kennel and Move Day Prep Tips. Hope this helps!

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!

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