Flying with your beloved canine companion on American Airlines can be an exciting prospect, whether you’re embarking on a cross-country adventure or relocating to a new home. While traveling in-cabin with small dogs is a popular choice, there are situations when flying with dogs in cargo is necessary. 

With proper preparation and understanding of the pet policy, you can ensure a safe and comfortable pet in cargo journey for your furry friend when flying with United Airlines. In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know about flying with dogs in cargo, including important considerations, regulations, and tips to make the experience as stress-free as possible. So, let’s dive in and learn how pet owners can navigate the skies when they fly with their dogs or cats!

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What Does It Mean to Fly a Dog in Cargo?

Traveling with your pet or flying with a dog in cargo refers to the transportation of a pet in the designated cargo area of an aircraft rather than having them in the cabin with the passengers. Dogs that are too large to meet the size and weight restrictions for in-cabin travel or those traveling long distances may need to be transported as cargo. 

This involves placing the dog in an airline-approved crate or kennel and ensuring they are safely secured for the duration of the flight. To accept pets for flying, airlines have specific procedures and guidelines in place to ensure the well-being and safety of dogs traveling in cargo, including temperature regulation, ventilation, and handling protocols.

Risks Associated with Flying Dogs in Cargo

When planning to fly your dog or cat, there are several factors for pet owners to consider when paying the pet fee for air travel.The risks of traveling with pets, specifically flying dogs in cargo. Like humans, your pet can also feel anxious on the plane. You need to watch out for the risk and prepare your response to protect your dog while flying, adhering to the airline pet policy.

  • Temperature can fluctuate in flight during pet cargo travel making your dog or cat feel uncomfortable.
  • The noise and vibrations can contribute to increased stress and anxiety in dogs
  • Traveling as pet cargo in an unfamiliar environment and being separated from their owners can cause significant stress and anxiety for dogs and cats.
  • There is a slight risk of mishandling or misrouting during the handling and transfer processes.
  • The duration of the flight, combined with limited space and movement, can lead to physical discomfort for dogs.

While these risks exist, it’s important to note that many airlines have specific protocols in place to mitigate these challenges and ensure the well-being of dogs traveling in cargo. Before flying, thoroughly research and choose an airline with a good track record in pet transportation, consult your veterinarian for guidance, and take necessary precautions to make the journey as safe and stress-free as possible for your furry friend.

Airline Policies For Dogs In Cargo 

In general, cats and dogs that weight more than 100 lbs. Cats and dogs are advised to be placed in cargo.  This is because larger dogs typically exceed the size and weight limits allowed for in-cabin travel, where space is limited and safety considerations must be taken into account. Placing larger dogs in the cargo hold allows for proper accommodation and ensures the comfort and safety of both the dog and the passengers in the cabin.

Preparing Your Dog for Cargo Travel

Traveling with your pet may be stressful for them due to the unfamiliar setting, noises, and other factors that they may encounter. We suggest the following tip to prepare your dog for cargo travel. 

  • Acclimate your dog to a crate
  • Before you fly your dog or cat as cargo, consult your vet for potential risks and get proper medication for your pet.
  • Gradually help your dog adapt to airport settings
  • Take your dog, or your cat, to a walk, car ride, or short plane trips before going for longer flights.
  • Teach your dogs and cats with hand signs and other non-verbal cues to help him express a feeling of discomfort, and other things your pet may need.
  • Leash train your dog
  • As advised by the American Veterinary Medical Association, give him pre-flight medications before your pet travel.

Tips for Choosing the Right Crate for Cargo Travel

When flying, you cannot just choose any kind of crate. In order to avoid being offloaded by American Airlines Cargo, you must ensure that you have the right crate for your dog or cat.  Here are some tips you can follow when choosing a crate for cargo travel:

  • Check airline requirements and guidelines.
  • Ensure the crate is IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved.
  • Choose a sturdy and well-ventilated crate.
  • Airlines require adequate space for your pet to stand, turn, and lie down while traveling in the cargo hold.
  • Secure latches and locks on the pet carrier when prepping for pet travel in any airlines like United Airlines or American airlines.
  • Ensure that the dog or cat crate is properly labeled with your contact information when you plan to fly them as cargo.
  • When traveling with a pet in cargo, include absorbent bedding and familiar items in the crate.
  • Provide food and water containers that can be accessed from outside.
  • Test the crate’s stability and security before travel.
  • Seek professional advice if uncertain about pet carrier selection or details of United Airlines’ pet policy.

Frequently Asked Questions

As pet owners, what can you do to minimize stress for your pet when they travel in the cargo hold?

To minimize stress for your dog or cat when flying as cargo, pet owners need to help them prepare in advance. Familiarize them with their travel crate, gradually acclimate them to confinement, and provide positive experiences within the crate. Before putting your dog as cargo, exercise him to increase endurance and implement anxiety-reducing strategies such as giving prescribed medication or putting familiar toys in the pet carrier.

Is it safe for all dogs to travel in the pet carrier cargo, especially if the airline allows pets to fly in the cabin?

While flying in cargo can be safe for most dogs, there are considerations for certain breeds, older dogs, puppies, and those with health conditions. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs or Pugs, may have higher risks due to their respiratory issues, especially when allowed to fly in the cabin. It is crucial to know the airline pet policy of companies like American Airlines and United Airlines for these types of dogs and cats. Older dogs, puppies, or those with pre-existing health conditions might be susceptible to stress or discomfort during pet travel. It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian to assess your dog’s individual circumstances and determine if flying in cargo is the best option. Your vet can provide specific advice and guidance for pet owners to ensure the safety and well-being of their dog or cat during travel.


Flying with dogs in cargo can definitely be exciting and at the same time nerve-wracking especially for first timers.  To minimize stress, familiar your dog with the travel crate and inquire about the different airline policies about flying with dogs. Moreover, Consulting with your veterinarian and following their advice will ensure a safer and more comfortable journey for your beloved companion. By taking these steps, you can help make the experience as smooth as possible for your dog during cargo travel.


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