Pet Travel in an Airline Cargo Hold – What Should a Pet Owner Do?

Dog in crateHaving been in the business of serving traveling pet owners with transporting their pets for over 15 years, I have read a lot of articles about the risks of pets traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane. Although I do not intend to argue against those opinions here, I would take this opportunity to mention that there is risk in taking ourselves and loved ones, including our pets, out of our environment no matter how we decide to do it (drive or fly). The core of the issue is not the decision; it is thought and preparation that goes behind it.

Because your children can communicate with you, it is easy to explain to them what you are doing, what is going to happen, and why. However, our pets, and particularly dogs, look to us for communication and will never understand what is happening to them when traveling in an airline cargo hold unless they are prepared for it. As a pet owner faced with a relocation or long vacation involving great distance and necessitating traveling in an airplane where you cannot be with them, what can be done to help your pet understand what is going on and be confident enough to withstand the separation from you?

First of all, you need to evaluate your pet’s health and personality. Take your pet to your vet if your pet has health issues and discuss them. Will these issues pose a challenge to your pet, mentally or physically over a prolonged separation? If so, you need to adjust your travel so that you can attend to those needs. Plan a layover along the way; just know that you will need to accommodate the import requirements of that country.

You know your pet’s personality better than anyone else. If your pet is very dependent on you, then it will take longer to prepare them for the separation involved in travel. Is your pet shy and timid? That will also require lots of advance preparation. Is your pet protective, territorial, and possibly aggressive? This is a difficult personality to deal with when traveling and this personality may require special crates to contain them when they are being held and loaded on the airplane.

Preparing for a trip involving the cargo hold of an airline is not an easy thing. Pets that are exposed to this type of travel before reaching adulthood will be better travelers, but don’t we all learn better when we are young? If you are faced with prolonged pet travel and your pet has never traveled before, plan to start very early. Get the crate months in advance and bond your pet to it, whatever it takes. Replace your pet’s bed with it (unless your pet sleeps with you), put your unlaundered clothing in it, lie down next to it and encourage your pet to use it, again and again. Reward your pet generously. This crate will protect your pet both physically and mentally, so you can understand how important this step is.

The second step is to get your pet out of its environment while in the crate. Take them to the dog park, to a friend’s or relative’s house or somewhere else fun. Or just drive around; anything to remove them from their environment. Get them around other animals or people and observe their behavior if this is possible. The more peoples they are exposed to, the better they will adjust to being around strangers without you.

The third step is to separate yourself from your pet. This is the hardest part, but will help your pet the most. Leave them with a friend or relative for a day, then come back to get them. Leave them at the groomers for longer than necessary, then come back to get them. Take them to doggy day care, then come back to get them. Always have a joyous reunion and give them lots of love and hugs when you come back to get them. By doing this, they will know you will always come back to get them, no matter where they are. And they will function better without you for periods of time. This is exactly what you want them to be able to do when you travel.

This all may sound hard to do, but it is not impossible and certainly worth doing. And yes, there are more things you will need to do such as check your destination country’s import requirements, look up local vets and pet hospitals, accumulate your pet’s medicines, take toys and grooming tools, and don’t forget a good leash. Just remember that you must prepare your pet mentally in order to have a successful trip. And, instead of feeling guilty, do what you can to prepare your pet. It will pay off in the long run.


Pet Travel in an Airline Cargo Hold – What Should a Pet Owner Do? — 42 Comments

  1. Saeid – regulations to import birds can be complicated and change quuickly due to Avian outbreaks. You may want to use an agent in Germany who would be familiar with import regulations. You can search for an agent in either Iran or Germany at

  2. Sunita – as for your first question, if your dog is flying as air cargo, many airlines will require that your dog be removed from the crate so the crate can be inspected. Some do not require that. You may want to contact your airline’s cargo department if this it is flying under this class of service. If it is flying as checked baggage, you will check it in at the terminal check-in desk. It will not b removed from the crate in this case.

    To you second question, if your dog will be displaying aggressive tendencies when handled and is a large dog, then it should travel in a CR 82 compliant pet crate. You can see examples of this crate here: (scroll down) Lufthansa will fly it when using this crate.

  3. Hello. I have two questions.

    1. If it’s a flight with no layovers, does anyone take the dog out of the crate (e.g. for security check)? In other words, I put the dog in the crate and I take it out. Does anyone else open the crate? Question is for airports in USA, Frankfurt, Mumbai.

    2. My dog doesn’t like strangers. Will airlines (Lufthansa) transport my dog?

    Thank you for your help.

  4. Don – once airborne, the crew will not have access to the cargo hold. They should check your dog’s water before boarding. Will your puppy clear customs in Nanila before proceeding to Tagbilaran? If so, then you will need to claim it and clear customs. (this is a question for your airlines). This would be a good time to walk it and clean it up if it needs it. Be sure and get a good pet pad like these: They will keep your puppy dry.

  5. Ok I have a question for you my 4month old puppy will be flying to Manila than Tagbilaran from San Francisco, I talked to Philippines airlines they said no one will watch him in the cargo hold and when he arrives in Manila I can?t see him and there will be no pet handeler to clean him up if needed and make sure he is still alive( there words not mine) what can I do so he is comfortable and dosnt stress out and is still living in Tagbilaran after his 24hr plus flight?

  6. Jacob – you may want to consider flying into Atlanta and renting a car and driving to NC. This will save you at least one stop. Eva Airlines flies direct to Seattle where you will claim your pup and clear customs. You can fly Alaska Airlines into ATL. Two direct flights and you do not layover in a foreign country. The layover in Seattle is less than 2 hours, so you may want to consider spending the night or taking a later flight after spending time caring for your pup.
    Eva also flies direct into LAX, but the connection to ATL does not work. You can also see if you can find a flight from Seattle direct to Raleigh if that is your destination in NC.

  7. Hi! My wife and I will be traveling from Taiwan to North Carolina. We are taking our Golden Retriever who is 13 years old. My concerns are which airlines to go with and how many stops is not recommended. There is one, maybe two. Can he be misplaced? Do they walk him? Any info would be of great help! You really know your stuff!

  8. Mariana – we are not sure what country you will start your journey from, but if it is not Ghana, know that you will need to have documentation for your pet to clear customs and enter that country if you plan to spend the night. As to your question, your dog would need to be in its crate 14 hours in the air and at least 2-3 hours on the ground before loading for a total of 16-17 hours if you stop at AMS. Generally, we prefer direct flights when possible. The less handling and the quicker you get your dog to its destination, the better. That said, you need to have a comfort level with your pet’s transport. You may find that comfort level by speaking with your airlines. Not sure about animal welfare regulations in South Africa where SAA is based and that is good to check. You should also know that if your dog is flying as accompanied checked baggage, then you will need to arrange care at their pet facility at AMS should you decide to use KLM.

  9. Hi!

    I will be travelling with my pet from Africa to the US. We will do a 2hr flight with TAP to Accra, where we will spend the night together before resuming travelling again. The second flight is worrying me a little. I am supposed to travel from Accra directly to DC in what is supposed to be an 11hr flight on South African Airways. Is this too long? Would it be better to flight with KLM from Accra to Amsterdam, have a 6hr layover where he’s sent to the animal hotel, and then from Amsterdam to DC? The total travel time would be longer, but I’ve read that it is dangerous to travel with a dog on a flight longer than 10 hrs.
    Your advice would be more than appreciated!!

  10. Merna – the two carriers for this route are Delta and United. You may want to consider United through Chicago, although they both have pretty similar flight duration. At the weight they are, you will likely be required to put them in separate crates. You should get crate pads like the one on this page so they will wick away any urination: Watch how much you feed them before flight. Nothing prior to 6 hours before flying. Water is ok, though. With the short layovers, the airlines will not have enough time to walk them, but you need to get them to Akron as quickly as you can. It is more stressful for them to think they are done with the crate only to have to get back into it for another flight. They may need a bath and the crate may need cleaning, but if everyone is safe, that is what counts.

  11. I have 2 Chihuahua mix female dogs 19lbs/7yr and 24lbs/11yr. We will be moving from Honolulu to Akron, OH early Dec. Delta says the can route us thru Atlanta, GA. The dogs will be in the kennels 14hrs. #1 should I put the dogs in separate carriers? #2 I want to put padding on the bottom but how do they handle going to the bathroom? #3 we will be in atlanta 2.5 hrs changing planes all Delta. Will this be OK or should I get the dogs and book a later second flight?
    #4 I will also be carrying on the plane (I hope) a 17yr old Siamese Cat who can be quite vocal, and she will need to urinate.

  12. Mary – your kittens will be transferred to a holding area with the rest of the baggage to wait until your plane can be loaded. Live animals are last thing to be loaded on the plane. Be aware of time spent on the runway waiting to take off if it is a warm day as the air conditioning system kicks on once airborne.

  13. I am travelling from Vancouver, BC to Sudbury, Ontario (with a brief stop in Toronto) with my two kittens, ages 5 and 3 on September 17. Our flight from YVR leaves at 8:00 a.m.

    I decided to put the kittens in the same crate (intermediate Petmate Vari Kennel) because they get along and they will probably comfort each other during the flight. That means that, unfortunately, I cannot take them in the cabin with me (even if that were possible, both cats are extremely vocal and would end up crying loud.

    I am very nervous as I have read horror stories about animals travelling in cargo. Could you give me some information on how my kittens will be handled by Air Canada after I hand them over at the check-in counter at YVR?

    Thank you very much,

  14. Anisah – get the best pet crate you can find and acclimate your kitty to it. Be sure and have the door and corners cable-tied and use metal hardware to lock the top and bottom together. ( (The airlines may do this for you.) Get the largest crate cargo bowl for the door. Freeze water in it the night before. Get your cat a good crate pad. Be sure and be proactive the day of travel. Don’t board until you get notification that your cat has boarded. Tell the Captain that your cat is in the cargo hold and please to monitor conditions there.

  15. Hi there.
    I need to travel from Manchester to Islamabad with my cat. I’ve been looking for a direct flight to reduce her stress as she detests the carrier and car trips, let alone an 8hr flight. The only direct flight I can find is PIA but she will have to go in cargo and both myself and my husband are really worrying about this. She is perfectly healthy and will be upto date with everything and the vet has suggested a sedative to keep her calm, during the flight. We’ve heard horror stories of being thrown around during unloading in Islamabad and also about the temperature and noise of the cargo hold. Have you got any advice on how to make it easier for her and ourselves. Thanks.

  16. Hi Stella – unless your Italian Greyhound is a certified service animal, it will need to arrive in Australia as air cargo. It may be helpful for you to get its crate as soon as possible and get it accustomed to being in it. You need to start preparing your pet 6 months in advance so you should have time. If you need requirements to enter Australia, you can find them here:

  17. I will be moving to Australia and have a 7 year old Italian greyhound. She is so shy and attached to me and has had some health issues in the past and I am so worried that she will not make it ok, what do you recommend? I just can’t leave her behind but I panic that she doesn’t make it ok I won’t forgive myself.. Such a difficult decision, I wish she could understand.. 🙁 Do you have any additional recommendations for shy dogs? Thank you!

  18. Julian – have your pet microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days prior to your trip. Have your vet get it an EU Pet Passport if he does not already have one and you should be set to go. Re-entering the UK will require that a vet administer a tapeworm treatment between one and five days of entering.

  19. We are from London and go every year to a spanish island for two weeks. We bought a cavapoo, (very friendly) and he is 19 months old. Last year we missed him terribly and we would like to fly with him this August.
    We are considering flying with BA so we can be on the same flight. Obviously we do not want to stress him, but he has adapted to our life so well, including traveling by public transport, so this could great for all.
    Does anyone travel on holidays for two weeks with their dog?

  20. Sonal – unless your cat is very vocal (cries a lot) or does not like to be confined in a carrier, it is always preferable to travel with your pet in the cabin. All airlines that carry animals have temperature and pressure controlled cargo holds. However, it is similar to cabin conditions. Once the plane is in the air, the temperature is cool and the drone (hum) of the engines generally will put animals to sleep. Air India has issues with their reservations agents not being familiar with their airline pet policies, but, as do many airlines, they try to keep pet owners satisfied. These days, social media and reviews are extremely important to any business.

  21. Hi

    Im flying with my cat to India using Singapore Airlines in about 3 weeks. She will travel with me on the same flight, but in the cargo hold. The Singapore Airlines website says that their cargo hold is Air Conditioned. What does that mean? Is it pressurised like the cabin? Is it sound proofed? If not then does the sound of the engine/ motor make cats nervous? My cat is quite shy and easily scared by sound. Should I be worried? Also Ive heard Air India allows small animals in the cabin? Should I take that option instead? Are Air India reliable?

  22. Ian – you need to contact KLM for the cost information. Does your Chihuahua have have an EU Pet Passport?

  23. Hi. I’m travelling from Athens to St Petersburg, Russia, with KLM. I’m hoping to take my chihuahua with me. She is chipped and vaccinated, also she’ll have the rabies jab before we go. We’ve got a stopover in Amsterdam for a night each way. Taking her as cabin luggage, have you any idea of the cost??

  24. Thomas – pets can travel with foot passengers on DFDS ferry out of Amsterdam with an advance reservation. This is the only route they offer where this is allowed.

  25. can I travel on aDFDS ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle as a foot passenger with a cat in a travel cage and then rent a kennel on boardthe ferry?

  26. Linda – well, the confusion could be coming from the fact that Delta does not fly live animals on their 767 aircraft because the hold is not configured for it. I think that is what the airline representative was telling you. Delta flies 767 aircraft on many of their long routes including into and out of London.

    My suggestion would be to try another airline. There are several to choose from: Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic may also be able to help you and they all fly directly from LHR to DTW.

  27. I am getting conflicting info on flying my pets, two cats and a dog. Delta tells me they a under an embargo for flying pets from London to the USA Detroit. A pet travel company says they can arrange travel through Delta. Who is right? I plan to fly late September.

  28. Jenny – certainly give your pet some water. Best to walk them and orient them to their new location prior to feeding them.

  29. I have some additional question 🙂

    What is the best thing to do upon your pest arrival
    After airplane travel should you feed him or just give him water …..

    Million thanks
    Jenny 🙂

  30. Hello Stephany – if you have followed the rules, then you should not have problems on your trip. Your pet must first be microchipped, then vaccinated. Finland has a 10 day rule that a licensed vet must fill out the Annex II form within 10 days of entry to Finland. It should be endorsed by your country veterinarian. The tapeworm test must be done between one and five days of travel.

    What I am confused on is your comment about being inspected in Amsterdam. If you are not changing airlines, then the airlines should just transfer your pet from one plane to another and no inspection should be needed because you are not entering the Netherlands. I would inquire again as to why an inspection would be necessary.

  31. Hello!
    Im flying from Mexico city to Finland. My dog is microchipped, has his rabies (with more than a month before flying), and will get the Health Cert and deworming on the week before flying.
    I’ve been told stories that its really hard to take your dog and that he will be quarantined or shipped back. Is this likely?
    Also, I will connect via Amsterdam, and as the first EU country, they will inspect him there first. KLM said I don’t do anything, they will check him and need at least 50 min connecting time. But what happens if something is wrong, and is 1hr really enough time??

    Thank you for your time. My dog and I appreciate it (the nerves are killing me).

  32. The N.O.C can only be obtained for you by someone who is in India as they must appear in person to obtain the document. I have previously referred people to this agent in India who can obtain the document for you.
    Rishya Hemchandra
    Yashbans and Fuzzy Wuzzy
    Bangalore, India
    visit us at /
    [email protected]
    Cell:+91 984 515 8080 – Direct line: +91 988 631 2691
    Fax: +91 80 4163 8533
    She is a local pet transport agent who can advise and assist you.

    Be sure to check with the airline you are flying on to confirm that they will transport the Pug breed of dog as checked baggage – not all airlines are willing to do so.



  34. If you fly with your dogs, you must clear them through Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester and they must travel as manifest cargo. An agent will pick up your pets and take them to the Animal Clearance Center where you will pick them up. There is a charge for this service.

    Best bet may be to take the ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle on DFDS Seaways. Your pets will need to travel in a car or kennel. Last time I looked, it was $19 per pet, but may have changed. You pets will be cleared in Newcastle.

    Your pets will need a microchip, vaccination, blue pet passport and a tapeworm test just prior to entering the UK.

  35. I need to travel Nice to Newcastle how much will 2 small dogs cost urgent thanks

  36. Anna – the airlines are cautious about sedatives and many do not allow it. You should ask your veterinarian whether this is wise if your airline allows it. We do not recommend it. There are all natural calmers that you may want to try. We have them available at

    As for hydration, the airline will require a water/food bowl that will attach to the door of the crate. Best to freeze the water so it will not spill and melt slowly.

    My best advice would be to get your kitty used to the crate as soon as possible. Try taking it out of its environment in the crate. If you wait until travel day, it will be traumatic. Once your pet is loaded and the plane is in the air, the sound of the motors will most likely put your kitty to sleep. We have lots of information on pets traveling in the cargo hold here:

  37. Hi Susan, thank you for your prompt reply. I understand there will be much to do about the airlines and documents, but I’m ready to prepare all necessary papers and arrange whatever I can with the airlines. My main concern is my pets’ physical and mental health in such a long trip. They do not have any health problems but such a long trip looks tough even for totally healthy cats. Should I give them any sedative medication? Can I do anything to prevent dehydration? I shall be thankful for any tips.

  38. Hi Anna – I can understand your concern as this is a long trip. You need to talk to your vet about your pet’s health and ability to handle a long trip. It concerns me a bit that you are changing airlines. If this is a must that you change airline, know that you will need to claim your pet and recheck it on the next airline. This means that you will enter the country and must carry health certificates for that country.

    As to the trip, I would suggest that you speak with the airline and ask if they will allow you to see your kitty during the layover. Sometimes this can be arranged. The other option would be to layover for a night, but again, this would require entry to the country.

  39. Hello Susan. I have to travel from Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Cambodia with my two cats. I really dislike the idea of exposing my animals to such a long trip but unfortunately I cannot leave them in Russia. The flights from St.Pete to Cambodia take more than 24 hours and two airline transfers, which I guess is much too dangerous for the cats (at least one of them will have to be transported in cargo hold). So my decision is to travel from St.Petersburg to Bangkok or Saighon (some 16 hours, 1 transfer) and later from Bangkok or Saighon to Cambodia (that’s a short flight). Do you think they can endure such a trip? What can I do to make it easier for them? I am worried about the cat in the cargo for 16 hours without access to water, and psychological stress as well.

  40. Hi Maxine – if your Yorkies are traveling in the cabin, there will be no problem leaving Phoenix. If they are traveling as checked baggage or cargo, then you need to be concerned with them flying out of Jacksonville to Phoenix this time of year. The temperature in the hold is fine once the aircraft is in the air, but on the tarmac, there is little protecting them from the summer heat. I would suggest that you try departing very late in the evening if possible.

  41. I need to go home to phx az from jax fla with transfer in Atlanta ga.

    I have made this trip many times with my little yorkies, but never in the summer

    My main concern is if they will be in air condition vans while leaving the terminal
    to their boarding department with air plz answer and help me out Thanks maxine

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