How Do You Ship a Pet?

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated January 16, 2024

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A pet wearing a santa hat peeking out of a car.

The best way to ship your pet depends on several factors. Some things you must consider are your pet’s age, its health and breed, your budget, the timeframe you have in mind and the risks involved with each option. Here is a guide to get you started!

What Ways Can You Ship a Pet?

Air Shipping: Carry-on and Cargo

Most airlines will allow you to bring small pets as “carry-ons.” The general rule is that your dog or cat must be 20 pounds or less. They must be stowed below your seat for the duration of the flight. 

If your pet is larger, you’ll need to ship them in the plane’s cargo area below the main cabin. 

Ground Transport 

Ground transport through a pet shipping company is an option that is growing in popularity. A professional driver picks up your furry friend and delivers them to you at the desired destination. 

What Airlines Offer Express Pet Shipping?

Express pet shipping via carry-on is widely available for small dogs and cats. Pet shipping companies may offer the option to hire an air nanny — a trained professional who chaperones your pet — to accompany them on their journey through the airport and on the plane.

Some of the most popular airlines that allow carry-on pet express shipping:

  • Southwest
  • Alaska
  • United
  • American
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian
  • Spirit
  • Frontier

Only three airlines can ship your pet in cargo: Delta, American, and Alaska.

How Can I Deliver a Pet Using Express Shipping?

Research airlines that allow for the express pet shipping method your pet needs. Contact the airline of your choice with plenty of time to organize the required health paperwork and make a reservation. 

Pros and Cons of Air Transport


Fastest Shipping Option

It’s no secret that flying is the quickest way to get from point A to point B. Shipping your pet via plane means less travel time over long distances.

Carry-on is Simple for Small Pets

Bringing a smaller pet on a plane is relatively hassle-free and inexpensive (around $125)


Costs that Add up Quickly

While air transport may initially seem like the cheapest way to transport a pet, the costs add up quickly. If you need to fly your pet in cargo, fees may include the following:

Limited Spaces Available 

A limited number of pets are allowed in-cabin and cargo for safety reasons. You’ll need to leave plenty of time to make your pet’s reservation.

The Weather and the Air Temperature Must be Just Right 

To comply with USDA standards, the cargo area must maintain a temperature below 85 °F (29.5 °C) and above 45 °F (7.2 °C) during the duration of your pet’s flight. During the winter and summer months this may lead to unexpected delays or cancellations. This can put a damper on getting your pet across the country quickly.

Breed Restrictions

All airlines that allow express pet shipping in cargo, like American, have a breed restrictions list. The list typically includes “snub-nosed” dog breeds (such as pugs, boxers, French bulldogs, etc.) due to respiratory risk.

Unexpected Changes in the Environment

Both the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA say to avoid flying your pet in cargo unless absolutely necessary. Stressors such as fluctuating air temperature and pressure, mishandling from staff, loud noises and turbulence may cause injuries or accidents.

Pros and Cons of Ground Transport


Door-to-Door Services

You can beat long wait times at the airport and opt for door-to-door pickup and drop-off.

Regular or VIP services

Drivers for pet shipping companies will typically “stack” their routes, transporting several pets with drop-off locations along the way. This is a cost-effective way to travel without compromising safety. VIP services may cost extra, but they also provide extra attention on a solo ride with the driver. 

Constant Attention and Care 

On the road, your driver will be close to your puppy pal, so they won’t get lonely. They can make routine checks to be sure your pet is in good health and enjoying the ride.

Fewer Breed Restrictions

Traveling by car may eliminate health risks for certain animals with medical conditions preventing them from flying.

Conveniences of Being on the Road

When you’re in the air, pit stops for exercise and potty breaks aren’t an option. During ground transport, drivers can stop for 15 to 30 minutes every 2 to 4 hours, as recommended by veterinarians. Additionally, the driver can control the temperature in the vehicle during extreme weather.


Communication is key! Drivers hired through CitizenShipper can connect with you at any point through an internal messaging system. You’ll always be a call or text away from your best friend.


Ground Transport Isn’t Available for Overseas Travel

If you’re planning on going out of the country, you might need to combine ground and air transport to get your pet to its destination. 

Longer Travel Time

“Good things come to those who wait” — a saying said over and over — and there’s a reason. Although ground transport may take longer, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your pet is getting the best care and attention possible.

How to Find a Reputable Pet Transporter

So, how do you ship a pet? A crucial step in your planning is finding a safe, reliable, and affordable transporter. Luckily, CitizenShipper’s online platform eliminates a lot of anxieties and tedious steps in the process. 

Safety as a Top Priority

In the event of a medical emergency during your pet’s journey, your transporter should be prepared. 

All drivers hired through CitizenShipper have access to a licensed vet through a 24/7 Televet platform called FirstVet. CitizenShipper also provides a pet protection policy at no cost. This short-term policy covers some or all expenses related to pet injuries, illnesses and other unexpected issues that may occur during transport.


Your pet shipping company should have your back. CitizenShipper’s Booking Assurance Guarantee protects you from fraudulent transactions and last-minute driver cancellations.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s journey, CitizenShipper’s dedicated customer support team is always available — the response time is 324% higher than the industry average. 

Let’s dive into how you can save in these simple steps!

1. Create a Customized Listing

Create a free listing detailing the needs of your pet’s transport journey. Qualified, background-checked and USDA-registered drivers will send you quotes about your pet transportation within minutes!

2. Choose the Best Transporter

You can review prospective transporter’s profiles and consider the following to make your choice:

  • Reviews from past customers
  • Rating on a 5-star scale 
  • How many trips has the transporter completed and canceled

CitizenShipper operates with a unique bidding system where transporters compete to offer you the best deal for your pet’s travel needs. This keeps costs low — about 60-70% less than traditional shipping companies!

Find Joy in the Journey

CitizenShipper helps connect you with transporters who are qualified for your pet’s needs — they’re happy to help! 

Post a free listing today to check out your options!