Flying your Pet: Myths and Facts

Myth:  Airline cargo compartments are not pressurized.
Fact:  The aircraft structure is basically a pressurized cylinder.  All compartments on modern aircraft are pressurized that hold luggage, people or pets.

Myth:  It is best to tranquilize your pet before it flies to keep it calm.
Fact:  High altitudes have a natural sedative-like effect on most mammals.  Thereby tending to lower respiration (breathing) and blood pressure.  For this reason, routine tranquilization of pets is strongly discouraged as these drugs further suppress respiration and blood pressure and make it more difficult for you pet to adjust to the environment. Most pets settle down once onboard the plane and sleep for the duration of the flight.  Always consult your vet before administering any tranquilizers, sedatives or drugs to your pet before flying.

Myth:  Cargo compartments are not heated.
Fact: Cargo compartments are heated through the pressurization process.  The minimum temperature of this process maintains the cargo compartment temperature at 38-45 degrees Fahrenheit which will keep luggage and cargo from freezing.  These cargo compartments are not used for flying animals and are marked for ground crews to be reminded.  Most aircraft have one or more compartments with supplemental heating systems which hold live animals and are heated to a temperature similar to that in the passenger compartment of approximately 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit.  These compartments are marked clearly as suitable for animals.

Myth:  Unventilated cargo compartments are not safe for pets.
Fact:  While most aircraft do not have forced air ventilation in the cargo compartments, they do have adequate airflow.  While in flight, pressurized air flows from the passenger cabin into the cargo compartments.  Under the pressurization process some of the air naturally leaks around the compartment doors.  This air is subsequently replaced by air from the passenger cabin there by maintaining a constant air pressure throughout the aircraft.  This naturally occuring ventilation provides a safe and comfortable environment for pets.

Myth:  Cargo compartments are unsafe and inhumane.
Fact:  The compartment in which pets travel is heated and pressurized.  Training of your pet to be comfortable in a crate before it flies is a major aid towards reducing stress levels and raising its ability to relax more easily.

Myth:  No one at the airlines cares about my pet.
Fact:  Most airline employees have pets too.  Airlines are very aware that pets are very precious to the people that fly them and go to great measures to ensure the pets are handled in a safe, humane and prompt way.  Many airlines have specially trained employees to handle the pets and specific temperature guidelines. Some will even notify the passenger that their pet has been loaded on board safely before the flight leaves.

Please contact the air carrier you plan to use well in advance of your flight to make sure of their specific rules and requirements before you plan to fly your pet.  Every airline may not have the same rules.

Some US airlines (and possibly other countries airlines) no longer take dogs/puppies on cross Atlantic flights. Others no longer allow puppies or small dogs in the cabin.  Please be sure to ask the airlines these questions before you make your flight reservations if you will be bringing a puppy or dog with you.

Many airlines have temperature restrictions in effect.  Please consult the airline you will use to fly your pet for further details.

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