Safety Tips for Flying with Dogs or Cats in Plane Cargo


In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people traveling with their pets. While it can be a wonderful experience to have your furry friend with you on your adventures, it's important to recognize the risks associated with flying with pets, particularly when they're placed in cargo.

Pets traveling in cargo can face a variety of dangers, including extreme temperatures, lack of oxygen, and rough handling. In some cases, pets have been injured, lost, or even died during air travel. As a result, it's crucial to take the necessary precautions to ensure your pet's safety when flying.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks of traveling with your pet. By planning ahead, choosing the right airline, and properly preparing your pet for travel, you can help ensure that they arrive at your destination safe and sound.

Safety Tips for Flying with Dogs or Cats in Plane Cargo

Pre-Flight Preparations:

Before you take your pet on a flight, there are several important steps you should take to ensure their safety.

  1. Consult with a veterinarian: It's essential to consult with your veterinarian before flying with your pet, particularly if they have any health issues. Your vet can provide advice on how to prepare your pet for travel, as well as any medications or vaccinations they may need.
  2. Choose an airline that has pet-friendly policies: Not all airlines have the same policies when it comes to flying with pets, so it's important to research your options and choose an airline that has a good reputation for pet travel. Look for an airline that allows pets in the cabin if possible, or has a safe and secure pet cargo area.
  3. Verify pet eligibility and requirements for air travel: Each airline has its own requirements for pet travel, so make sure to check these carefully before booking your flight. For example, some airlines may have restrictions on the size or breed of pets that can travel, while others may require a health certificate or proof of vaccinations.
  4. Acclimatize your pet to the travel crate: It's important to make sure your pet is comfortable in their travel crate before the flight. Gradually introduce your pet to the crate in the weeks leading up to the flight, and make sure they have plenty of opportunities to get used to it. This can help reduce stress and anxiety during the flight.

Crate Selection and Preparation

Selecting and preparing the right crate for your pet is critical to their safety and comfort during air travel. Here are some important considerations:

  • Types of crates approved for air travel: When flying with your pet, it's important to use a crate that is approved by the airline for air travel. Look for crates that meet International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines or that are specifically approved by your airline. Soft-sided carriers are not generally approved for cargo travel.
  • Choosing the right crate size for your pet: Your pet should have enough space to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably in their crate. However, the crate shouldn't be too big, as this can increase the risk of injury during turbulence. Consult with your airline for specific size requirements.
  • Preparing the crate for safe travel: Make sure the crate is secure and in good condition before the flight. Remove any collars or harnesses that could become tangled or caught in the crate. Provide comfortable bedding and toys for your pet, and make sure they have access to water.
  • Labeling the crate: Label the crate with your pet's name, your name, and contact information for both your departure and arrival destinations. This ensures that if there are any issues or delays, airline staff can easily contact you. Additionally, place a visible "Live Animal" label on the crate.

Packing for Your Pet

When packing for your pet's air travel, there are a few important items to include in their travel kit:

  • What to pack in your pet's travel kit: In addition to any necessary medications or health certificates, include items like a leash, collar or harness, waste bags, and grooming supplies. If your pet has a favorite toy or blanket, consider bringing it along as well to help them feel more comfortable.
  • The importance of identification tags: Make sure your pet has a collar with identification tags that include your name and contact information, as well as the name and contact information for a backup emergency contact. Additionally, consider microchipping your pet before travel to ensure that they can be easily identified if lost.
  • Packing food and water: It's important to pack enough food and water for your pet's journey, as well as any necessary feeding supplies. You may also want to consider packing a few extra meals in case of delays or unexpected travel changes. However, be aware that some airlines have restrictions on the types of food and water that can be brought on board, so make sure to check with your airline before packing these items. Additionally, if you're flying internationally, be aware that some countries have specific regulations regarding the import of pet food and water.

Day of Travel:

On the day of your pet's flight, there are a few important steps to follow to ensure a safe and stress-free journey:

  • Feeding and exercising your pet before travel: Feed your pet a light meal a few hours before the flight, and make sure they have access to water up until check-in. Take your pet for a walk or play with them before travel to help them relax and burn off any excess energy.
  • Checklist before leaving for the airport: Double-check that you have all necessary documents, your pet's travel kit, and any other necessary items before leaving for the airport. Make sure your pet is securely fastened in their travel crate and that the crate is labeled appropriately.
  • Check-in procedures: When you arrive at the airport, check in at the airline counter and let them know that you are traveling with a pet. You will likely need to show your pet's health certificate, and pay any applicable fees. If your pet is traveling in cargo, you may need to drop them off at a separate cargo area.
  • Escorting your pet to the cargo area: If your pet is traveling in cargo, make sure to follow the airline's instructions for escorting them to the cargo area. Stay calm and reassuring, and avoid making a scene or drawing attention to your pet. Once your pet has been loaded onto the plane, make sure to let the airline know that they have been safely loaded.

During the Flight

When your pet is traveling in cargo, there are some important considerations to keep in mind during the flight:

  • Handling procedures for pets in cargo: Airlines have specific procedures for handling pets in cargo, including securing their crates, providing access to water, and monitoring temperature and air pressure. However, it's important to note that cargo areas can be noisy and stressful for pets, and they may experience anxiety or discomfort during the flight.
  • Temperature and air pressure regulations: Cargo areas are regulated to ensure that they are kept at safe temperatures and air pressure levels for pets. However, extreme temperatures or air pressure changes can still occur, especially during takeoff and landing. Make sure to follow the airline's guidelines for when to provide your pet with any necessary medications or other interventions.
  • Monitoring your pet's wellbeing: While you won't be able to check on your pet during the flight, you can track their progress using the airline's tracking system. Make sure to inform the airline of any concerns you have about your pet's wellbeing before the flight, and ask for updates throughout the journey. If your pet has any special health conditions, make sure to discuss them with the airline and your veterinarian before travel.
  • Emergency protocols: In the event of an emergency, the airline staff will follow specific protocols for handling pets in cargo. Make sure that your pet's travel crate is clearly labeled with your contact information and any emergency contacts, so that you can be notified quickly in the event of an emergency. Additionally, make sure to discuss emergency protocols with the airline before travel, and have a plan in place in case of unexpected delays or disruptions.

After the Flight

Once your pet has arrived at their destination, there are a few important steps to take to ensure their safe and smooth arrival:

  • Procedures for picking up your pet: When you arrive at your destination, make your way to the designated area for pet pick-up. You will likely need to present identification and pay any fees before you can retrieve your pet. Once you have your pet, check them over for any signs of distress or injury, and take them outside for a bathroom break if necessary.
  • Post-flight care: After travel, your pet may be disoriented or stressed. Make sure to provide them with plenty of water and a nutritious meal, and spend some time playing or cuddling with them to help them adjust to their new surroundings. If you notice any signs of illness or distress, contact your veterinarian right away.
  • Addressing concerns with the airline: If you have any concerns about your pet's travel experience, make sure to address them with the airline. This could include issues with the handling of your pet, delays or disruptions during travel, or unexpected fees. Make sure to keep a record of any conversations or correspondence with the airline, and escalate your concerns to a supervisor if necessary.

Overall, air travel can be a stressful experience for pets and their owners, but with careful preparation and attention to detail, you can help ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your furry friend.


In summary, flying with pets in cargo requires careful planning and attention to safety measures to ensure that your pet arrives at their destination happy and healthy. Before you travel, make sure to consult with your veterinarian, choose an airline with pet-friendly policies, and acclimatize your pet to their travel crate. During the flight, monitor your pet's wellbeing and be prepared for emergencies. After the flight, provide your pet with plenty of care and attention to help them adjust to their new surroundings.

Traveling with pets can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, allowing you to share new adventures and create lasting memories with your furry friend. However, it's important to remember that air travel can be stressful for pets, and that their safety and wellbeing should always be the top priority.

Some final tips for pet owners include:

  • Researching the airline's pet policies and requirements before booking your flight.
  • Packing all necessary items for your pet, including food, water, medication, and identification tags.
  • Labeling your pet's crate with your contact information and emergency contacts.
  • Informing the airline and your veterinarian of any special health conditions your pet may have.
  • Providing plenty of care and attention to your pet after the flight to help them adjust to their new surroundings.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your pet, and enjoy the many benefits of traveling with your furry friend.


Q: What are the risks of flying with pets in cargo?

There are several risks associated with flying with pets in cargo, including exposure to extreme temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling. Pets may also experience stress, anxiety, and injury during the flight. However, by following proper safety measures and precautions, these risks can be minimized.

Q: Can all pets travel in cargo?

Not all pets are eligible to travel in cargo, and the specific rules and requirements vary depending on the airline and destination. Generally, pets must be in good health, up-to-date on their vaccinations, and travel in an approved carrier or crate. Some airlines also have breed restrictions or age limits for pets.

Q: How can I prepare my pet for air travel?

To prepare your pet for air travel, it's important to acclimatize them to their travel crate, ensure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations, and visit your veterinarian to ensure they are healthy and fit to travel. You should also pack all necessary items, such as food, water, and identification tags, and inform the airline of any special requirements or health conditions your pet may have.

Q: What should I do if my pet is injured during air travel?

If your pet is injured during air travel, it's important to seek medical attention immediately. Contact the airline and inform them of the situation, and keep all relevant documentation and records. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also want to consult with a lawyer or seek legal advice.

Q: What is the best airline for traveling with pets in cargo?

The best airline for traveling with pets in cargo depends on your specific needs and requirements. Some airlines, such as Delta and American Airlines, have established pet programs and trained staff to ensure the safe transport of pets. It's important to research the airline's policies and requirements, and choose an airline that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of pets.

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