Can pugs fly? There’s a lot of debate about whether the lovable snub-nosed breed can or should take to the skies. Brachycephalic breeds—such as pugs, boston terriers, boxers, some mastiffs, pekingese, lhasa apsos, shih tzus and bulldogs—are prone to respiratory issues as a result of their shortened noses. It can make breathing difficult, which is not ideal when flying. Here’s the the low down on planes and pugs, and what you need to know before booking your flight.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor am I affiliated with any airline. The following information is my opinion, based on over 20 flights with my own pug.
The Department of Transportation releases information on animal death, injury, and loss from airlines every month. They release monthly and annual reports, as well as incident information.
From 2005 – 2010, there were 122 dog deaths from flying in cargo, and approximately half were flat-faced breeds, such as the English bulldog, pug, and French bulldog.
Over the years, airlines have begun to ban snub-nosed dogs from flying in cargo, and as a result, numbers have declined. In 2017, there were 24 dog deaths, and only 3 of those were associated with brachycephalic breeds (2 pugs and 1 bulldog). The majority of pet deaths were on United Airlines.
*Allegiant, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit, and Virgin America were also included, and all had zero incidents.
Out of a total of over 500,000 animals flown, there were 24 pet deaths, 15 injuries, and 1 loss over the course of the year. Keep in mind that this is a very small number when compared to the hundreds of thousands of animals that fly every year. The vast majority of animals flew without incident and arrived safely to their destination.
Say No to Cargo
Pugs should never fly in cargo.
Their snub nose and sensitivity to temperature make it risky to place them in the plane’s cargo hold. Pugs are vulnerable to changes in air quality and temperature, and although cargo holds are pressurized, the air circulation might not be ideal. Plus, there’s no one in the hold to monitor them. It’s not a risk that any pug owner should be willing to take.
Thankfully, many airlines have banned brachycephalic breeds from flying in cargo, such as United, so the option is off the table.
Know your Pug
Every pug is different. It’s impossible to tell whether an animal is suitable to fly based on breed alone. This is why it’s so important to know your pug. Some might have zero trouble, while others might be better off left at home. No one will be better at determining this than you.
Your pug is probably ok to fly if they:
- Are ok around people and dogs.
- View their pet carrier as a safe space and don’t mind spending time in it.
- Are comfortable in different and/or new places and spaces.
- Are not super nervous or anxious.
- Are at a healthy weight.
Don’t fly with your pug if:
- They have serious respiratory issues, and/or are in need of soft palate surgical procedures.
- If they suffer from claustrophobia.
- If they are prone to anxiety or become nervous easily.
- If they are not good around people, or in new environments.
- They are obese (extra weight puts stress on the airways).
Tips for Flying
Here are a few tips to help on your journey:
- Open the air vent above your seat and aim it towards your pug. A flow of air in their direction, however light, is helpful.
- Get a pet carrier that zips open at the top, so your pug is able to poke their head out of the bag. They will be able to breathe better if it’s not zippered shut.
- Tire your pug out before the flight, so come take off, they can use their time in the air to nap.
- Carry zip lock bags and ask your flight attendant for ice to fill it with, should your pug need to cool off.
- Be aware of where the oxygen masks are, should your pug need assistance at any point.
- Avoid putting thick or heavy blankets or clothing items in the pet carrier.
There are Options
If bringing your pug in the cabin with you isn’t an option, there are other ways to get from point A to point B. Companies such as Pet Airways and Pet Jets fly pets privately to their destination. Their charter plane service allows you to fly with your pug, or they fly your pug with other canine passengers. Handlers monitor the dogs on board to ensure that they are healthy and happy on their journey. A good majority of their clients are brachycephalic breeds who are too large to fly in cabin.
Airlines That Don’t Allow Pugs in Cabin:
While many airlines have banned pugs from flying in the cargo hold, some do not allow them (or any dog) in the cabin either. Avoid the following airlines when booking your flight:
EasyJet (they do not allow pets at all in cabin)
Emirates (they do not allow pets at all in cabin)
Volaris Airlines (they do not allow pugs in cabin)