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Can Shih Tzus Fly on Planes? The Surprising Answer!

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

If you’re a dog owner who truly adores their canine, it’s normal to want to take them everywhere you go. That includes taking your dog on planes, which has gotten easier than ever in the last few years. However, not all dogs are alike, and some with short snouts and brachycephalic faces have difficulty breathing while traveling on a plane. That includes the Shih Tzu. Shih Tzus can fly with some major airlines as long as they’re in a dog carrier under your seat during the flight. However, some airlines don’t allow Shih Tzus to fly due to the breed’s health concerns.

We’ve gathered the latest information below about flying with Shih Tzus. Read on to learn everything you need to know to make your next flight a happy one.

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Which Airlines Allow Shih Tzus to Fly with You?

Some airlines allow you to bring your Shih Tzu on a flight, while others don’t. Below are several of the largest airlines in the United States and North America and their stance on taking Shih Tzus on the plane with you.

  • Air Canada – Air Canada does not allow any brachycephalic dog to fly in any of their airplanes due to health concerns.
  • Alaska Airlines – Alaska Airlines doesn’t allow Shih Tzu and many other brachycephalic dogs to fly with them because of their health issues.
  • American Airlines – American Airlines will let your Shih Tzu ride in the cabin with you as long as it meets all their size and health requirements. It’s best to check with the airline before traveling.
  • Delta Airlines – Delta Airlines no longer allows brachycephalic dogs, including Shih Tzus, to ride in their planes.
  • Frontier Airlines – As of this writing, Frontier Airlines allows dogs under 20 pounds to ride in the cabin with their owners, including Shih Tzus.
  • JetBlue Airways – JetBlue allows small dogs under 20 pounds to fly on their planes. That includes Shih Tzus. One caveat is that the weight of your Shih Tzu and its crate can’t exceed 20 pounds.
  • Southwest Airlines – Southwest Airlines will let your Shih Tzu ride in the cabin with you as long as they weigh less than 20 pounds (9 kilograms). However, they won’t let you take your Shih Tzu if you’re flying to an international location.
  • Spirit Airlines – Spirit Airlines allows you to take your dog with you in the cabin as long as it weighs less than 40 pounds. However, the company doesn’t allow dogs on international flights or flights to or from Puerto Rico or St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
  • United Airlines – United Airlines doesn’t allow Shih Tzus to ride in their planes due to health concerns.
Close up White shih tzu laying on the floor
Image Credit: Sanyalux Srisurin, Shutterstock

Can Shih Tzus Fly on International Flights?

One of the biggest problems when traveling with a dog is international travel. Many countries don’t allow animals into their country, including dogs like Shih Tzus, due to health and safety concerns. Other countries force you to put your dog into quarantine for several weeks and sometimes months when they arrive.

As of this writing, there are three classifications that you must note before traveling internationally with your Shih Tzu. They include:

  • Rabies-Free Countries
  • Rabies-Controlled Countries
  • High-Rabies Countries

Depending on where you plan to travel, some restrictions may prevent you from visiting with your Shih Tzu. The best thing to do is check the PetTravel website before you book your international flight.

Can Your Shih Tzu Be Let Out of Its Carrier During the Flight?

Regardless of the airline, your dog must stay in their carrier the entire time. You can’t take them out to sit on your lap, for example, or go for a walk to the bathroom with you. This might be stressful for your pet (and for you), but it’s a rule that you must follow when flying with your pet. Even if they must go potty, you can’t let them out, which could be problematic on a long flight.

No Airlines Let You Check your Shih Tzu into the Cargo Hold

Just a quick note to say that, currently, no airlines will allow you to check your Shih Tzu as “luggage” and allow them to fly in the cargo hold like some bigger dogs. This is, as you might have already guessed, due to health concerns.

shih tzu puppy sitting on a couch
Image Credit: Pattarit S, Shutterstock

How to Prepare Your Shih Tzu for a Flight

Preparing any dog, including a Shih Tzu, for a plane trip must be done with certain aspects in mind.

Limit Your Shih Tzu’s Access to Food and Water

It might seem harsh but limiting your Shih Tzu’s access to water and food before they fly is critical. Remember, you can’t let them out of their crate when you’re flying, and even if you could, planes don’t have places for dogs to relieve themselves. To prevent unwanted accidents, stop giving your Shih Tzu food about 6 hours before your flight. Also, give them less water, so their bladder isn’t full when flying.

Take Your Pup to go Potty Before Going to the Airport

It’s essential to take your Shih Tzu on a walk or let it go in the backyard to do its business before leaving for the airport.

Never Use Sedatives to Calm your Shih Tzu

Many dogs, just like humans, get nervous or anxious before a flight or while flying. For some dogs, giving them a doggy tranquilizer works well and keeps them calm throughout the trip. Shih Tzus, however, do not fall into this category. As a brachycephalic dog that already has breathing difficulties, giving a Shih Tzu sedatives to fly could seriously injure or even kill them.

When Possible, Choose a Direct Flight

Many of the travel destinations Americans like best, including the Caribbean, have layovers when you fly. That means a lot more moving, carrying, and waiting time, all while your Shih Tzu is sitting cooped up in its crate. If you care for your dog’s health, booking a direct flight is always the best choice.

Shih Tzu Showing Teeth
Image Credit: Marissa B., Shutterstock

Have Your Shih Tzu Checked by Your Vet Before Flying

If you’re unsure or this is your Shih Tzu’s first flight, a good recommendation is to have your local vet give them a quick exam. That way, you’ll know they are (or aren’t) in good condition to handle the rigors of travel by air. Also, your airline might need paperwork signed off by a vet to let your dog fly. The required documents often include a health certificate and a certificate saying that they are rabies-free.

Fly when it’s Cooler but not Cold

Extreme heat and cold can affect a Shih Tzu more than some breeds because of their size and brachycephalic nature. Because of this, traveling when it’s cool but not cold is recommended. Mid to late fall and mid-spring to early summer are the best times of year to travel with any dog, including a Shih Tzu.Divider 5

Final Thoughts

The good news is that your precious Shih Tzu can fly with you on many major airlines and to many destinations. The bad news is that they can’t fly on all airlines and, depending on where you’re headed, might not be allowed into the country easily.

Veterinarians recommend checking with your airline to ensure traveling with your pet is possible and preparing them to fly by following the advice given above. That way, you and your pup will arrive at your destination ready to enjoy yourselves and have a wonderful time!

Featured Image Credit: Vineyard Perspective, Shutterstock

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