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Traveling can be stressful for you and your pet. We’ve already given you travel tips on how to travel with your pet in the car, or how to travel with your pet in the cabin of an airplane. But what happens when you’re traveling with a pet who needs to travel in the cargo hold?

On occasion we may need to travel long distances with our pets. Whether you’re traveling between states or to another country, your pet may need to travel in the cargo hold at some point in the future.

Today, we’ll go through tips and strategies you can use to ensure your pet has a safe and happy experience in an airplane’s cargo hold.

Make Sure your Pet is Micro-Chipped
This tip applies to all types of travel. It’s extremely unlikely that an airline will lose your pet. However, in the unlikely event that it does happen, your pet’s microchip can help bail everyone out of an awkward situation.
Modern microchips also have contact information. If somebody finds your pet, and is able to read its tags, then the microchip helps to ensure your pet gets home safely.

Visit your Vet Before Departure
Your vet will ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. They’ll also refill any prescriptions you might need while you’re away. Additionally, many airlines (and some countries) require you to show a health certificate for your pet. Your vet will provide a health certificate that clears your pet for air travel. Make sure the document is dated within 10 days of your airplane’s departure date to ensure it’s valid.

Book Direct Flights Wherever Possible
This one is self-explanatory. The fewer trips your pet has to make, the less stress they’ll have to endure. Even if it’s slightly more expensive, you should book a direct flight if possible.

Purchase an Airline-Approved Travel Crate
Many pet owners are surprised to learn that their ordinary travel crate isn’t suitable for travel. Before traveling in an airplane’s cargo hold, make sure your crate is approved for air travel. Make sure the crate gives your pet sufficient room to stand, sit, and circle around.

Many pet owners line their crate with bedding and familiar toys before air travel. The cargo hold experiences the same turbulence as the cabin, and in the event of turbulence, you want your dog to stay safe.
Avoid locking the crate before travel, as airline personnel may have to open it. Some pet owners also mark the crate with a LIVE ANIMAL marking.

Your crate should also have a tag with a photo of your pet, along with your final destination and contact number.

Check the Airline’s Policies on Food and Water Policies
Different airlines have different policies on allowing your pet to have food and water. Some airlines force your pet to go without food or water for the duration of the flight, while others are more permissive.

Ask if the Airline Has a Cargo Camera
Some airlines allow customers to view a cargo camera. Pilots have access to a cargo camera that lets them see what’s going on in the hold of the airplane.

If you ask nicely, a flight attendant or friendly pilot may allow you to view this camera and get a live look at your pet. At the very least, the copilot may be able to take a picture of the cargo hold camera on their phone, and then walk back to the cabin show you the picture.

Understand that Air Travel is Hard on Pets
For most large dogs, traveling in the cabin of an airplane is impossible. That’s why they end up in the cargo hold. Unfortunately, even with all the tips listed above, airplane travel is still going to be hard on your dog. It puts a lot of stress on your pet. It’s an unfortunate statistic that thousands of pets have passed away while traveling in airplane cargo holds.

With these sobering thoughts in mind, try to keep airplane travel to a minimum for larger dogs. Check local kennels for long-term rates. Ask friends and family if they can look after your dog while you go away. Consider driving between states instead of flying – even if it takes significantly longer.

Unless you’re permanently moving to a new location, it may be best to leave your dog at home instead of taking it in an airplane cargo hold. However, when you do need to travel long distances with your pet, the tips listed above will help ensure a safe trip in the cargo hold.