Flying with pets as cargo involves risks but if you have no other option, a good crate is indispensable
Dog waiting in its crate doesn’t look too happy at the prospect of flying as cargo

When I was doing my research I came across many experts who agree that flying with pets as cargo involves certain risks. In fact, no matter what your reason might be, my advice to anyone who is thinking about traveling by air with their dog or cat in the cargo hold is DON’T. The risks are too great and too many tragic stories have been told. This should definitely be your last resort if there is absolutely no other viable option available to you.

Of course, the other possible choice is for your furry friend to accompany you in the passenger cabin, but that’s something to discuss another day.

Either way, make sure you get advice from your vet as well as the airline and prepare ahead of your flight schedule.

Consult Your Vet

Ask your vet about your pet’s food and water requirements. Also, what to do if your pet is nervous. Note, that administering a sedative before boarding is generally not advisable, and that tranquilizing can cause dangerous changes in the heart rate as well as other vital functions.

Consult The Airline

Check out what I.D.s, vaccinations and other documentation is required by the airline in question for both types of airline travel.

Do The Research

Here are some of the variables if you are thinking of having your pet fly in the cargo hold.

  • Experience and reputation of the airline
  • Time of year
  • Duration of the flight
  •  Direct flight versus connecting flights
  •  Weather on the ground

The Risk Factors

  • Pressure in the cargo hold is not always exactly the same as that of the cabin.
  • In the forward hold where live animals and pets are kept, temperatures during a flight can fluctuate by as much as 50 degrees despite having a heating/cooling system.
  • Extreme heat and cold while waiting on the tarmac.
  • Cargo crew mishandling, including dropping and breaking the crate, resulting in injuries, escaping and even death.

The Riskiest Times

  • The waiting period before loading.
  • Layovers, when you have to wait for a connecting flight.
  • The wait time for unloading/deplaning.

To Sum Up

Take your time and check out all possible options. Since flying with pets as cargo involves risks, please do your utmost to minimize those risks. We can point them out but, in the end, it’s up to you.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

Here’s another article you might like, this time about pets in the driver’s seat: