What Dog Breeds are Restricted From Flying Cargo?

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated February 12, 2024

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So you’re moving across the country but aren’t sure how to get your dog to your new home. Many people assume the only way to get a dog transported long distance is through the air. After all, it seems like the fastest way to get from point A to point B. But did you know that depending on the breed of dog you own, air travel may not be possible? That’s because airlines have restricted many different breeds of dog from flying for health and safety reasons.

What Kinds of Dogs Can’t Fly in the Cargo Area?

While your first thought might be that the banned breeds are those stereotyped as “aggressive,” that’s not actually the case for most of these banned breeds. Instead, airlines don’t allow dog breeds that are considered to be brachycephalic — or in simpler terms, a snub-nosed breed. If you own a breed that is snub nosed, you won’t be able to check them into the cargo area of the plane. Delta Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines all have similar policies for snub-nosed breeds. It’s worth pointing out that United Airlines has also placed restrictions on “strong-jawed” breeds, which essentially means those breeds that get a bad rap for being aggressive — pit bulls, American Staffordshire terriers and other similar breeds.

Know what dog breeds are restricted from flying in the cargo area of a plane.

Is There An Alternative to Flying in the Cargo Area?

However, if the dog is small enough — and many brachycephalic breeds are — you may still be able to fly with them in the cabin area. Don’t assume that your airline will allow you to bring your snub-nosed dog into the cabin. Instead, be sure to call well in advance and check with the airline to find out. Many airlines have different policies when it comes to allowing these sorts of dogs on the plane.

Consider Ground Transportation as an Alternative to American Airlines

With many restrictions around pet air travel, ground transportation is often a better solution. If your pet has to fly in the cargo area, you must choose ground transport – you wouldn’t put your children in the cargo area, don’t do it with your pets either! It’s the safest, most humane way to send a pet long distances.

What Does a Snub-Nosed Dog Breed Mean?

Snub-nosed dogs have shorter snouts and a different facial structure than most other breeds. Essentially, their faces are more condensed. While their smooshy faces make them appear absolutely adorable, it can lead to serious health consequences when in the cargo area. And while their snouts are shorter, that doesn’t mean they lack any of the anatomical features of other breeds. They have nasal passages, sinuses and a hard palate, but in a space that is much smaller.

Why Do Brachycephalic Breeds Have a Higher Health Risk on Planes?

Because of their condensed facial structure, brachycephalic breeds have respiratory difficulties. Snub-nosed breeds tend to have a narrow trachea, larger-than-average soft palate and smaller nostrils.

Struggling to breathe can lead to two issues: First, and most obvious, they won’t get enough oxygen during the flight. These dogs already have a small windpipe, and when they get stressed and start to breathe hard they can actually collapse. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a great metaphor for this phenomenon. Imagine the windpipe as a straw — if you suck on it gently you’ll have no problems, but if you suck hard through the straw it tightens up and won’t allow any liquid (or in the dog’s case, air) through. This problem is made even worse when the dog is overweight or obese.

The other secondary issue is that the dog won’t be able to properly cool itself and is at risk for overheating during the flight. Flying in the cargo area is a stressful situation for any dog, but when it’s having a hard time breathing it’s even more upsetting.

Why are airplane cargo areas particularly dangerous? Yes, it’s true that the cargo area is pressurized and the air is generally the same as what’s circulating in the cabin. But because these breeds are sensitive to breathing issues, even slightly-less-than-ideal circulation can have a significant impact on their respiratory system. Plus, your dog is in a carrier, which can also restrict air flow. And finally, there are not any humans in the cargo area, so if your dog is having a medical emergency, nobody will know until after the plane lands.

Before the ban on snub-nosed dogs on airlines, the statistics were alarming. About half of all dog deaths that occurred during airplane travel over the previous five years were brachycephalic breeds. English bulldogs alone made up almost a quarter of the deaths — 25 of 122 dogs that died.

Dog Breeds Banned by Delta Airlines*:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Lhasa Apso
  • American bully (all breeds)
  • Mastiff (all breeds)
  • American pit bull terrier
  • Pekingese
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • Pit bull
  • Boston terrier
  • Pug (all breeds)
  • Boxer (all breeds)
  • Shar Pei
  • Bull terrier (all breeds)
  • Shih Tzu
  • Brussels griffon (Petit Brabancon)
  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Bulldog (all breeds)
  • Tibetan spaniel
  • Chow chow
  • English toy spaniel
  • Japanese chin (Japanese Spaniel)
  • King Charles spaniel (Cavalier King)

Dog Breeds Banned by American Airlines*:

  • Affenpinscher
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer (all breeds)
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog (all breeds)
  • Cane corso
  • Chow chow
  • Dogue De Bordeaux
  • English toy spaniel
  • Japanese chin
  • Lhasa apso
  • Mastiff (all breeds)
  • Pekingese
  • Pit bull
  • Presa Canario
  • Pug (all breeds)
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Tibetan spaniel

* Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of restricted breeds. Make sure you call the airline before you book your tickets to confirm your dog can fly.

Boxers are a popular breed that aren't allowed to fly in the cargo area of a plane.

How Can I Transport My Large Snub-Nosed Dog?

You may be asking yourself, “If I have a large dog that’s not allowed to fly, how can I transport it?” The good news is that there’s an easy way — ground transportation. While you can drive with your dog by yourself, it’s better to leave this to the pros by hiring a dog transporter. Professional dog carriers know how to keep your pooch comfortable on the road, when and where to make stops, and have experience being on the road for hours at a time. Best of all — the vast majority of dog transportation professionals don’t have any breed restrictions!

While you can certainly find a good dog transporter using traditional companies, CitizenShipper offers something unique and slightly different. Unlike an old-school dog transporter, CitizenShipper is a two-way dog transportation marketplace filled with thousands of drivers. In fact, it’s the leading pet transportation platform in the United States! The marketplace connects pet owners with these drivers, and then you can choose the perfect fit for your needs.

How Does CitizenShipper Work?

Instead of being forced to call transporters to get quotes, or spend hours filling out online forms, the quotes come directly to you from dozens of drivers that have a wide range of experience and equipment. First, head to CitizenShipper’s home page and create a listing for free. Include the details about your dog like its age, breed and size, your preferred drop-off and pick-up dates and locations. But don’t just stop there, include details about how often your dog needs to go pee, medication information, basically anything you think a transporter should know.

Within minutes of posting your listing, you’ll receive bids in your inbox from transporters with a wide range of experience and rates. Maybe you’re willing to pay a little more for someone that has years of experience; on the other hand, maybe you’re looking for the lowest price possible and are willing to hire a newer transporter. It’s your choice! Don’t just base your choice on how much the driver charges. You can chat with drivers using our internal messaging system, take a look at their profile page to learn more about their experience and other offerings, and you can read reviews from previous dog owners just like you. All of these factor into the perfect transporter for your furry friend.

Drivers on CitizenShipper are always pre-screened, ID-verified and background-checked. Read more about our screening process here. We also cover pet transports with a $1,000 Pet Protection Plan (we’re first and only transport platform that offers this perk), plus access to 24/7 televet care.

For more information about CitizenShipper, take a look at our helpful introductory video:

If you own a dog that’s on most airlines’ restricted breed list, you’re not resigned to doing it yourself or hiring an expensive, inflexible and impersonable traditional transporter. Instead, create a listing on CitizenShipper and find the perfect road companion for your fur baby!