Risks for Dogs Traveling in Cargo

Traveling the friendly blue skies can be an exciting time for many people, but for dogs (puppies, especially), the experience may be traumatic and even dangerous if traveling as air cargo. While some airlines may allow a dog to be in the cabin with his favorite human companion, other airlines may insist that dogs and puppies over a certain weight travel in cargo. While this may be ok for some dogs, it can be detrimental to others. Before traveling with your dog in cargo, make sure you understand the possible health risks to ensure a safe flight for your pup.

Short-Nosed Dogs

Short-nosed dogs, such as pugs and Boston terriers, have a higher risk of death traveling in airplanes than dogs with longer noses. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement declaring that these dogs have an increased risk. In recent years, at least one-half of dog deaths associated with in-air travel have involved short-nosed breeds. Due to the anatomical structure of their noses, short-nosed dogs experience a higher rate of respiratory difficulties than longer-nosed breeds.

Respiratory Illnesses

Since respiratory illness is one of the biggest dangers for pets traveling in cargo, major airlines generally require puppies to be at least 8 weeks old before allowing them to fly. The respiratory system of puppies under 8 to 12 weeks of age is still developing. Flying during this time can induce respiratory illnesses such as kennel cough or a respiratory infection. Puppies under 12 weeks of age have not completed their first round of vaccinations and this can also make them more prone to picking up airborne viruses.

Worsened Existing Health Issues

If at all possible, only travel with your dog if he is in excellent health. If a dog flies while he is weakened by or getting over an existing illness, his condition will likely worsen. Puppies' undeveloped immune systems can be made even less effective due to the confined space and stress involved with being separated from his human. Parasites, canine distemper and respiratory illnesses can all become worse from in-flight travel, whether it is in cargo or in the cabin.

Stress, Anxiety, and Risk of Escape

If your dog already has a nervous or anxious temperament, flying cargo should be avoided at all costs. Being placed in cargo can mean several hours in a cold or hot temperature, depending on the climate. The environment may feel scary to the puppy, which can induce fear, anxiety and panic -- especially since you won't be there to calm him. Some over anxious pets try (and have even succeeded) to break out of their kennels, so make sure to purchase a very secure carrier that cannot be easily opened by your dog or by accident. Even if they don't escape their carrier, they can hurt themselves while attempting to dig or chew their way out. The stress and anxiety can lead to an increased heart rate and dehydration.

By Pamela Miller


About the Author
Pamela Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for seven years. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from MTSU.