Passengers urged to use caution while flying with pets after dog dies during Delta layover

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-04 18:39:36-04

As the family of a Pomeranian that died while being transported on a Delta flight wait for the preliminary findings of a necropsy, many people may have heightened concerns when it comes to flying their pets on commercial planes. 

In 2017, two animals died on Delta Airlines while 18 animals died on United. 

On these airlines, we're told animals are kept in climate-controlled cargo areas that are separate from luggage, but there are so many other factors to consider, including temperatures on the tarmac and in holding areas, the animal's breed, age and health. The distance the animal has to fly is also a factor. 

One of the biggest issues of concern is the animal's ability to regulate their own body temperature, said Dr. Kate Reynolds, a veterinarian with Union Lake Veterinary Hospital in Waterford Township. 

"They can get into trouble very, very quickly," said Dr. Reynolds of certain dog breeds with short faces like Boston Terriers. "They're going to have a harder time panting and dispelling all of that heat that they have."

Many people avoid air travel with their pets and instead choose pet transport services to have their animals driven. 

"We'll drive your pet anywhere that you need them to be throughout the whole United States," said Gale Lang, owner of TLC Pet Transport who says the base cost varies on the size of the dog and they add 15 cents a mile. But Lang said, "They get the love and care that you would give them."

If you choose to fly your pet, Lang urges people to keep small pets in an approved carrier and the cabin with them. 

Lang is opposed to any pet flying in the cargo area of a plane. 

"Never. Never," said Lang. "I've got a lot of customers that work for airlines that tell me that they would never do that. They know what goes on."

Lang and Dr. Reynolds note the stress of flying on an animal can be dangerous. 

"One of the dog's natural responses to stress is to pant. and if you have a dog who is panting and that's getting them more worked up, that can increase their body temperature (and) increase their heart rate," said Dr. Reynolds. "The stress alone can do things physiologically, just like it can with people. And aside from making them uncomfortable, it can wind up being dangerous."

United Airlines has temporarily halted transporting animals in their cargo area while they evaluate their practices and policies. 

Some airlines do not allow to you check snub or pug nosed dogs or cats as baggage. 

If you are going to put your pet in cargo, Dr. Reynolds suggests short, direct flights. 

Some pet owners may consider asking their veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications for their pet. 

Dr. Reynolds says there are times of the year when they are going to advise against a dog traveling in cargo, and if the cargo temperature is not regulated, they will not allow it.

A veterinarian must certify an animal to fly within a certain number of days of the scheduled flight, but even that certificate is not a guarantee that an animal won't have problems during transport.