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I Need Your Help... Should I Fly My Puppy in Cargo?

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, a TeamSugar user needs our help! I know Helly1211 isn't the only one with concerns about flying a precious pet in the cargo area of the airplane so I'm putting her question out for the group. She writes:

We'd like to take our puppy home with us for the holidays – she'll be five months old at the time of the flight and, since she's 14 pounds already, I know she will exceed the 15 pound weight limit to carry a pet on board . . . meaning she'll have to fly with the cargo.

I've called the airline and they've explained to me that Northwest has pet agents who are with the animal until the flight takes off, secure them in their kennels, make sure they have water/food, and be certain that pets are the last to board and the first off the flight. Also, their cargo cabins are pressurized, have ventilation, and are temperature controlled. We're taking a direct four-hour flight so there are no layovers, though there could be delays. Our puppy is crate-trained and is not scared of many things (fine in car rides, OK around loud noises, etc.).

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I do not want to traumatize or put her in danger so I'm not sure if we should fly with her or not. Part of me thinks there's a good chance she will sleep through the whole flight and be just fine, the other part of me is worried she won't do well and will be trapped in her kennel for hours wondering where her owners are! I'd love to hear from anyone who has flown with their pets in cargo. Thanks!

Join The Conversation
sjivs131 sjivs131 8 years
My puppy flew to me (I bought him from Edmonton) it was a four hour direct flight, when he was 8 weeks old. When I got him he was a little shaken up and for the most part just happy to see someone that would hold him. Other than that he seemed ok, it took him about an hour to really calm down and I think he handled it fine. I'm flying with him again in 2 weeks (he's 4 months old now) but hes 5 lbs so I'll be able to take him on the plane, I do worry about how he'll handle it (might freak out and cause so much noise the other ppl on board will hate me) or just sleep through the whole thing. I think its something you should try, there's a first for everything.
krae85 krae85 8 years
I think this is too traumatic on puppy for such a short trip. Leave her at a kennel, and skip the stress!
beram1220 beram1220 8 years
I once fly my 5 month old puppy in cargo to the east coast(from California) and they LOST HIM! It was probably one of the most traumatizing things that has ever happened to me. Hours and hours later, he finally arrived at the airport on another random flight (through god knows where). When I realized he was not coming in, the airline printed me out a receipt that said "I'm sorry for your lost luggage." Please research the airline carefully before you fly your dog, and definitely don't use American. Also, if you are flying somewhere cold, you will sometimes need a vet's note saying that your dog is healthy enough to be in cold weather (even if the airplane is acclimated, the dogs are often outside in their crates before and after the flight) Sorry for the rambling - I just had to share my experience. My dog is 4 now and I am just now potentially thinking about flying with him again...maybe...
jfellows1631 jfellows1631 8 years
we fly with our dog in the cabin all the time....and pp's were is NOT recommended to drug the dogs....i don't think i'd be comfortable having him in the cargo hold though....we're not going to be able to travel as much with him since the airlines raised the prices for pet fees now :(
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Where is everyone else boarding their dogs such that they are kenneled all day? We use a combination day care/boarding service, so during the day they are all out in a big yard playing together.
NdHebert NdHebert 8 years
I couldnt do it. I think those 4 hours would be more traumatizing than a weekend at my moms house. I know it would freak my dog out, it would be really loud and she isnt used to being along somewhere besides her house.
jenna26 jenna26 8 years
I carry my pet on all the time (once a month usually) and they have never weighed him. He only weighs 4 lbs though so they might be able to tell by looking at him that theres no way he's over 15 lbs.
Helly1211 Helly1211 8 years
lexx- thanks for your input. was your parents dog ok? i would hate to hear our puppy crying (and i'm sure other passengers would too) but its more important to me that she is safe than temporarily unhappy. i've heard from a few people who have flown with dogs that the airlines are pretty lax about carrying a pet into the cabin. our puppy is on the cusp of the weight limit with northwest. from what i've heard, as long as your pet can fit into an airline approved doggie carrier with room to stand up and turn around, they never actually weigh your pet at check-in. any feedback on this? i'm not trying to get around the airline regulations, but if they don't mind an extra pound or two, I certainly would love to just bring Callie on board with us!
lexx lexx 8 years
I would only fly the dog as cargo as a last resort. My parents mistakenly did this to our family dog, when she was actually small enough to carry on...and they heard her barking and crying throughout the flight. It was heartbreaking. Too many things could go wrong just to have the puppy with you for a few days. I think it's much safer and practical to board her. I've brought my own dog as carry-on and the fees are enormous, and I imagine they are even more to bring a dog on as cargo.
Phasekitty Phasekitty 8 years
I do have one caution to add to this post- I went to book my pooch's flight again for this Christmas and the airlines have had a 250% increase in their prices to fly pets as cargo from last year at this time. I about died when they told me that it cost more to fly him roundtrip than it does to fly us. Looks like poor Brando will be stuck in Doggie Day Camp this Christmas.
Helly1211 Helly1211 8 years
Thanks everyone! It has really helped me to hear from those of you who have flown with a pet. I've looked high and low for advice on this topic, but all I came across were the lawsuits people filed against the airlines for something horrible happening to their dog. It's nice to know some of you have had a good experience. I know there are no guarantees that your pets are safe while flying in cargo, but it does seem to me that airlines have come a long way in ensuring their comfort and safety as best they can. That said, careless mistakes do happen - especially when flying during the holiday season. Our pup has a really nice temperament. From what I can tell, she doesn't spook easily, loves her crate, and can hold her potty for 5+ hours. I don't have my mind made up yet, but I really do appreciate hearing from petsugar readers on this big decision! Thanks again for all the great advice and tips. I'll definitely make sure puppy is prepared and crate is ready with all the necessities if she does make the trek with us. And I absolutely won't sedate her! The airlines and our vets really caution against it.
FoxyCPA FoxyCPA 8 years
I flew my dog Lily in cargo. The people at the airlines are really good with them. If your dog can be crated for a time then it shouldn't have a problem!
Phasekitty Phasekitty 8 years
I'm glad this question is being posted because it's important to hear other's experiences to help put your mind at ease. I had this exact same problem last Christmas- I flew my 6 month old Basset Hound from LA to NY in cargo. He has a touch of separation anxiety so I was really worried about him. Like most said, most vets will advise against sedation because it can affect pets differently at different altitudes, but our vet did encourage a Benadryl before flying to ensure that he would sleep. The only problem we had was that we could hear him barking before take off- but he always barks when he's alone. When he got off the plane he hopped right off to pee (he held it the whole 6 hour flight- we were so proud!) and then snuggled on my lap the entire car ride home. I think he was a little scared, but he bounced back so quickly when he saw us. I used United last year, but flying back with them from JFK was a nightmare (they made us wait 2 hours to check the dog in and we very nearly missed our flight), so I'll be using Delta/Northwest this year. It sounds like they really know what they're doing. I did a lot of research and as long as it's a direct flight, I'm confident that your pooch will be just fine. I advise to freeze a water bowl beforehand so he doesn't drink it all right away and that way it doesn't spill when they're loading him into the plane. Also, we flew during the day because I've heard that at night during the winter the cargo can get cold. We stuck some towels, a fluffy blanket, and a t-shirt I wore the day before in with Brando to make sure he was comfy. Also a frozen peanut butter kong to keep him occupied. I think your pup will be just fine. :)
KMattes KMattes 8 years
I know it's not quite the same, but I thought I'd share my experience anyway. I flew my rabbit in cargo when I moved from Upstate New York to Hawaii 2 years ago. Flying into Hawaii, you aren't allowed to have any live animals in the cabin because of quarantine issues and disease spread. They have to be ushered directly from the plane to the animal inspection area. Anyway, I paid $100 extra for him to be handled with care and in a heated compartment. I put some of those pet training pads in his crate with him, along with a blanket and toys. On every leg of the flight, a flight attendant would find me and let me know that he arrived on the plane safely. When I finally reunited with him after 9+ hours, he was a little shaken up but fine. Flying a rabbit halfway across the world definitely isn't something I preferred to do, but in the end, I'm so glad we did. He's a part of our family and I could never leave him behind!
eadavenp eadavenp 8 years
I've done it with my cats. If they allow the pets to fly during winter, airlines have a special temperature controlled area. Some airlines only allow pets during certain temperatures as it can get too hot or cold. They also ask that you not sedate your pet, one reason I was given for this was in case your pet vomits from the sedation, if they are sleeping, they could aspirate on the vomit. I would invest in a pooch pad or some other absorbent pad in case of delays, especially for a young puppy (even crate trained, he can't hold it indefinitely). My cat wound up peeing in his carrier because there was a delay and he was stuck in the crate for 8 hours. They wouldn't let me take him out, and I was glad he at least had some bedding in there to soak up the pee so he didn't have it sloshing around on his feet. It also took longer to check in with the animals, and there was an additional fee (just as an FYI). I would do it again if I had to, but unless i was going to be gone a LONG time (like several weeks) I would rather board my dog at the local animal hospital where they take great care of her, or at the kennel where she did her obedience school.
ladyr ladyr 8 years
I have never flown with a dog, but do they let you take them out to potty right before they get on the plane? I would be worried that a 5 month old puppy might not be able to hold it if they have to stay in the crate for too long. That would be so awful if they couldn't hold it and were stuck sitting in their own pee or poo in the crate on the plane. Depends on the individual dog and where you are at with her in terms of potty training I guess. I don't know if this is possible for you, but it might be helpful if you took a long car trip with her first.
lawchick lawchick 8 years
Our dog can't handle being kenneled and the only way I would put him on a plane would be if I was moving overseas or something like that. Some dogs are obviously more chill and could handle these things better. Puppies are usually pretty high strung, though, so I would be nervous about flying a puppy. We're flying out of town for Christmas and leaving our pets at home. A pet sitter will come over 2x a day and let the dog out and feed and play with all of them. It's going to cost a fortune but I feel good about it. It will be the least stressful option for the animals.
misfitgirl misfitgirl 8 years
I have never flown a dog, so I can't share any experiences. I think that the only time I would do it is if I absolutely had to (like, if I was moving across the country). However, I do travel all of the time for work and I kennel my dog. He used to have severe separation anxiety, so I was concerned, but by now he is a pro. He doesn't even whine on the car ride or even really seem to care anymore. The kennel has never reported any problems with him...he even gets baths there before I take him home (usually he acts up when I do it, but they say he is fine). It may be better for your pet, since he is young, to have some companionship (human and other dogs) and socialization. Good luck with whatever you decide.
missyd missyd 8 years
I dont think I'd fly Rozy like hubby would have a caniption about it too. He used to work at the airlines and saw whhat can happen to animals who dont react very well to it. Or the temperatures drop too low, animals go into shock, etc. Its too risky.
sunami sunami 8 years
I've heard that the dog may get stressed out and that level of cargo can get cold. if your dog gets stressed easily or may not be the best idea. perhaps a special travel crate would be best? Hope this helps
kiwitwist kiwitwist 8 years
I have never because I am paranoid. I was on a NW flight a few months back with animals on it and imo they weren't overly gentle with the crates. But maybe I am too gentle. :ponder: I would be leery about your pooch being so young also. Have any friend willing to house/pet sit? Or have your pooch go live with them for the holidays? What about driving? I am leery of boarding too. LOL
katrina1020 katrina1020 8 years
I just wanted to second Sugasuga's comments. You can't sedate your animals anymore. I think most airlines have policies against it. Its just too dangerous. But I'm really glad this question was posted! I have been fretting over the same issue.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
I've never flown with B-Bop in Cargo, but he did fly in the cabin with me and HATED it. I hope to never do that again. it really just depends on your dog I think. He cried and when we transfered to the small (noisy) place he was really freaked by the loud engines. I don't know what they allow, but maybe giving your puppy some comfort toys, leave a shirt of yours in his crate or things like that might help.
Sugasuga29 Sugasuga29 8 years
Vets actually don't hand out sedatives much anymore for pets that will be flying, because it inhibits their ability to adjust to altitude (think of when we have to swallow on a flight to pop our ears). I have wondered about flying with my dog, and didn't know the cargo areas were temperature controlled...that's good to know! :)
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