Health Risks for Shipping Puppies As Air Cargo

by Ella Miller
Cargo travel is not a match for pugs and other short-nosed breeds.

Cargo travel is not a match for pugs and other short-nosed breeds.

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Traveling the friendly blue skies can be an exciting time for many people, but for puppies, the experience may feel scary and frigid while traveling as air cargo. While some airlines may allow a puppy 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. There are many health concerns to consider to ensure a safe flight for your puppy.

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

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

When a puppy flies while he is simply too little and weak to be flying, an existing illness may worsen. Some puppies may carry parvovirus, but if they are in a healthy environment and receive proper veterinary care, it might not develop to its full potential. The weak immune system of puppies can place them at increased risk of become sicker when they reach their destination due to the confined space and stress. Parasites, canine distemper and respiratory illnesses can all become worse from in-flight travel, whether it is in cargo or in the cabin.

Stress and Anxiety

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 pets may try to break out of their cages and hurt themselves in the process from digging or chewing. The stress and anxiety can lead to an increased heart rate and dehydration.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Ella Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for more than six years. She has firsthand experience volunteering with animal rescue nonprofit organizations. Miller studies journalism with a minor in animal science at Middle Tennessee State University. She is also a licensed cosmetologist.

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