Airline Travel with Pets

By Rona Berg / March 16, 2018

In light of recent tragedies with animals traveling on airlines, we asked Emmy- award-winning veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Werber, to share his insight with us.

What are the risks associated with pets and air travel?

In the cabin the risks should be minimal, as long as temperature and pressure are properly maintained; Be sure your pup is behaviorally suited to travel and is not suffering from any illness and is able to control bodily functions for the duration of the flight.

The cabin is safer except in overhead bins which can be lethal as a result of not enough oxygen, circulation, temperature control, or panic.

The issues in cargo relate to temperature control, pressure control, oxygen and air circulation. Although airlines always claim their cargo holds are well controlled, that is not always the case; if your dog is flying in cargo it is recommended that you make sure every airline representative you deal with is aware you will be flying with a pet in cargo. That includes the airline at the time you make the reservation, the check-in counter, the flight attendants, and the pilot. Make sure they know your dog is there and to monitor temperature/pressure/oxygen and circulation. Don’t be shy.

Some people tranquilize dogs before a flight. I don’t advise that for every dog. It depends on the dog; I want the dog to have its wits about them so they can contend with challenging situations; if it’s too cold, they can shiver and shake to keep their body temperature up, which they cannot do if too tranquilized.

Is it safer for some breeds than others? Which ones?

Some breeds may not be allowed on a plane due to concerns about risk to others (i.e. Pitbulls, etc.). In summer months many airlines won’t allow brachycephalic breeds to fly, those being French bulldogs, pugs, bulldogs, because their anatomy can result in breathing complications, which are worse in summer months.

Any dog with a potential respiratory issue should not fly. Airlines generally will not let them in cargo, but will allow them in the cabin if they are service dogs, which need documentation.

Do they experience more stress, and what can be done to alleviate it?

People whose dogs are used to flying say their dogs don’t seem stressed at all during flight. Dogs not used to it may be stressed; if your dog is anxious s/he may benefit from a calming formula with such ingredients as valerian, passionflower, poppy, hops, and chamomile; Benedryl can also be used to help make the dog relax and feel drowsy. Always consult with a veterinarian before administering any such remedy.

Is it safer for pets to travel in cargo than in the overhead?

Dog should NEVER be placed in overhead compartment. The cargo is preferable if the cabin is not a possibility.

  About Dr. Jeff Werber  

Dr. Jeff Werber has dedicated his life to the care and protection of animals. A renowned veterinarian and pet parenting specialist, Dr. Jeff maintains that pets are more than just companions; they are part of the family and deserve to be treated that way.

A top graduate of the University of California Davis Veterinary School, Dr. Jeff established his Los Angeles-based private clinic, Century Veterinary Group, in 1988. Dr. Jeff cares for the pets of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Eva Longoria, the Jonas Brothers, Lori McLoughlin, Demi Moore, Emmy Rossum, Magic Johnson and many more – along with those of everyday pet owners.

He is a highly sought after and frequent guest speaker on a number of national news programs and has lent his expertise on Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, Good Morning America, TODAY, Fox & Friends, CBS’ The Early Show and Sunday Morning, CNN, Inside Edition, Fox News, and more. As an Emmy Award winning veterinarian, he has hosted the wildly popular Petcetera on Animal Planet Network, sharing his compassion and knowledge with millions of viewers around the country, encouraging responsible pet ownership and care. He currently hosts Pet Care TV, a program offering pet care tips and tools that is broadcast in 1,500 Veterinarian clinics throughout the United States. Dr. Jeff is also the host of the long-running “Ask the Vets with Dr. Jeff” live weekly call-in radio show on Pet Life Radio, the #1 pet radio network.

Dr. Jeff dedicates his time to many groups in the animal welfare community, such as Best Friends Animal Society, Last Chance for Animals, Hounds and Heroes and a number of rescue groups including Angel City Pits, Ace of Hearts, Forever Fido, Wags and Walks, Furry Friends, Eloise, Bill Foundation, among others. He also serves on the advisory board of Veterinary Economics Magazine.

Dr. Jeff has translated a childhood love of pets into a career committed to raising and shaping national awareness of the importance of high quality pet care. To learn more about Dr. Jeff, visit www.drjeff.com.


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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg

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