Pet Cargo Myths and Facts You Need to Know

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

Your Pet's Journey Matters!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book
shiba inu, beach.

You consider transporting your pet as cargo, but you have heard terrible stories about what might or might not happen to your furry friend? This article will reveal the truth behind some common pet cargo myths and provide you with all the information you need to ease your pre-travel worries. 

Myth #1: It’s Unsafe to Travel in the Plane’s Cargo Hold

This myth is not valid, but you should take all safety precautions. Usually, the cargo area is ventilated, pressurized, and temperature-controlled, so your pet should be safe, but occasionally pets get injured on flights. One central factor is the airline you choose. For example, United Airlines had in 2016 a much higher rate of pet deaths in comparison to other airlines, but still, the risks are very low. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that in 2019 404,556 animals were transported by airlines. 11 animals died, eight animals got insured, 0 animals got lost. This means there is a rate of 0.47 incidents by 10,000 animals transported. 

Still, travel is always a stressful experience for a pet, no matter if it’s ground travel or air travel, so you should work with high-quality carriers and specialized airlines. Check that your pet is a good candidate to fly. Talk to your vet if your four-legged friend has chronic health problems, is already a senior, or a snub-nosed breed. Snub-nosed breeds like Bulldogs or Chow Chow’s are especially vulnerable to air travel because of their limited respiratory system. For this reason, many airlines have special rules for the shipping of these breeds or don’t allow them to travel at all.

Working with a professional pet carrier can be very helpful because they know which airline is pet-friendly and are familiar with finding the most comfortable routes for your pet. Mainly when you have a dog vulnerable to flying, the experience of a professional carrier can be necessary for organizing the trip in the safest possible way.

Myth #2: The Cargo Area is Too Hot, Too Cold and Non-Pressurized

This myth is not true, but you should be careful about which airline you use. Most pet accepting airlines use large, wide-bodied aircraft with a cargo area with the same climate-control and -pressure as the passenger area. Many airlines have temperature restrictions during the summer and winter months as pets may need to spend some time

waiting outside of the plane in the heat or the cold before getting on board. This can be very dangerous for pets, so some airlines just don’t allow pets to travel during the more extreme weather months. If your pet is already physically vulnerable, it is crucial to work with an airline with experience in pet safety. Pet-friendly airlines provide climate-controlled vehicles for your pets for on- and off-boarding and create a safe environment on the plane.

Myth #3: Pets Has to be Sedated Before the Flight

This myth is not true. It is dangerous for your pet to be tranquilized before the flight because it may suppress the respiratory system, making it harder for an animal to cope with pressure and temperature changes. The influence on blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing comes with many health risks. Animals react very differently to sedating drugs, and the effect of the drugs is also influenced by altitude and other environmental factors. It can be difficult, even for a professional vet to know exactly how your pet would react to a dose of sedating drugs. 

It can be more stressful than calming for your pet when it loses its ability to focus or feels unexpectedly sleepy. Professional airlines and pet shippers don’t usually accept drugged pets.

What do instead? The best way to keep your pet calm is crate training. The more your pet is familiar with its carrier, the more comfortable it feels in it, and the less stressed it will feel when flying. 

Myth #4: All Pets Can Join You in the Cabin

This is partially true but comes with strict rules. Most airlines allow small cats and small dogs in the cabin with you, but your pet needs to fit into an approved carrier, which fits under the seat in front of you. This means no snuggling! Your pet has to stay in the carrier for the whole time, but you can reach them and accompany them with your calming presence.

You should keep in mind that you might need an extra reservation for your pet, which you should book asap because there are often a limited number of pets allowed in the cabin. Another reason to book early is that some airlines which generally offer in-cabin pet travels don’t allow it for every route. Make sure to contact your airline early about the specifics, so you still have enough time to think about alternatives if an in-cabin pet journey doesn’t work out.

Myth #5: You Should Put Food and Water Into the Carrier

This myth is not true, but you must provide empty water and food dishes attached to the inside of the carrier’s door and that are reachable from the outside. The airline may ask you to provide a small amount of food, that you will have to tape on the outside of the carrier. The rest is the job of the airline personnel, which will take care of your pet’s food and water needs if necessary. Within 2-4 hours before the departure, you should give your pet water and a small meal. Different airlines have different protocols they follow regarding the feeding before and during the flight. Inform yourself well before the flight!