Air travel with pets is not without risk. Each month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issues a consumer report on air travel. This report includes sections on lost baggage, overbooking, customer complaints and airline reports of incidents involving the loss, death or injury of pets during transport. Last year, airlines reported a total number of 17 deaths, 26 injuries and 2 lost pets during air transport.
Many of the pet deaths occurred as a due to complications from underlying health conditions and the stress of air travel. A great majority of the pets that did not survive the flight were brachycephalic (snub nosed) breeds such as bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers. Many airlines have restrictions on the transport of these breeds because of this tendency. A few other fatalities involved cases of gastric bloat and heart failure. Other pets that did not survive transport included cats, a bird, and two guinea pigs.
The majority of injuries were incurred when pets attempted to escape their carriers inside the cargo hold. The injuries were mostly to the mouth and feet and many did not seem to require immediate medical attention. A few injuries were a result of improper handling by personnel loading and off-loading carriers. One case involved an older dog with severe arthritis that was very painful after several hours in a carrier. The two lost pets resulted from escaping their carriers inside the cargo hold and then eluding airline personnel to escape the airport perimeter entirely.
Remember, if you are planning air travel for your pet, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pet is healthy enough to fly. Your veterinarian can advise you of any risks specific to your pet and also help with potential travel anxiety.
In addition, you should consult with the specific airline with which you are traveling to determine any breed/species restrictions and specific carrier recommendations or restrictions that airline has implemented. See this list for airlines and their specific guidelines concerning air travel with pets. Use this website to learn about the government's guidelines for traveling with your pet. For more information on traveling with your pets in general, you may want to read this article.