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Can a Shih Tzu Fly on a Plane (in the Cabin or Underneath)? Tips & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

white shih tzu resting its head and enjoying the view in a blue backpack

Can a Shih Tzu Fly on a Plane (in the Cabin or Underneath)? Tips & FAQ

The Shih Tzu is a small, energetic breed of dog that has been popular among families for generations. They are loyal companions and make great travel buddies due to their small size. But if you’re interested in flying with a Shih Tzu, you may be wondering, can they fly on planes? The short answer is that many popular airlines allow the Shih Tzu to fly on a plane in the cabin as long as they can fit in a carrier underneath the seat. Otherwise, they may have to remain in the cargo hold for the duration of the flight.


Flying With a Shih Tzu in the Cabin

The most obvious solution to flying a Shih Tzu on a plane is to take them in the cabin. Most airlines allow small pets as carry-ons, and the Shih Tzu fits this requirement perfectly. However, there are some restrictions that you should be aware of before booking your flight. The majority of airlines require that all pets traveling in the cabin must remain in a small pet carrier that’s designed specifically for air travel. To be safe, it’s always best to check with your airline before or when booking your flight so that you know all of their specific requirements and regulations regarding pet travel. Don’t wait until you show up for your flight with your Shih Tzu to ask if they can fly with you.

close up of white shih tzu
Image By: Sanyalux Srisurin, Shutterstock

Can My Shih Tzu Fly If I Can’t Take Them in the Cabin?

In some cases, it may not be possible to take your Shih Tzu in the cabin. If this is the case, you can still bring them along with you but they will have to travel in the plane’s cargo hold. Many airlines offer kenneling services that allow your pet to travel as cargo in a secure and temperature-controlled environment during transit. While it’s not ideal for every pet owner, it is a great option for those who cannot take their pets in the cabin but can’t leave their pets at home. Before booking your flight, be sure to get all of the necessary paperwork and requirements from your airline and your vet so that you can ensure that your pet is safe and secure while they travel.

Flying With a Service Dog

If your Shih Tzu is a certified service dog, they may be allowed to board the plane in the cabin without being kenneled. Each airline has different requirements for service dogs, so make sure you check with them before booking your flight.

soldier cuddling his shih tzu dog
Image By: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock


Safety Tips for Flying With Your Shih Tzu

No matter how you choose to fly with your Shih Tzu, there are some safety tips that you should always keep in mind:

  • Make sure your pet is well-behaved and comfortable with being around other people and animals.
  • Provide adequate food, water, and restroom breaks during long trips.
  • Ensure your pet has an ID tag with your contact information in case of an emergency.
  • Have a copy of your pet’s health records, especially if you’re traveling outside the country.

A Note About Flying With Shih Tzus

It’s important to keep in mind that Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed. Brachycephalic breeds have short muzzles and squished faces. These breeds are more likely to die on an airplane than breeds with longer muzzles.

This is because brachycephalic breeds are already prone to respiratory issues in normal conditions, but due to changes in air quality and temperature control in airplanes, the air circulation might not be right for your pet’s respiratory system. Yes, the cabins are pressurized, but it’s still something to be aware of when traveling with your Shih Tzu.

You will also want to consult with your vet before flying to see how you can make the trip easier on your dog. It’s recommended that you visit the vet 10 days prior to flying with your dog. Paperwork for traveling with your dog may be required by the airline and this will also give you the chance to talk to your vet about precautions you should take when flying with your Shih Tzu.

veterinarian and assistant in vet clinic at work
Image By: Usoltsev Kirill, Shutterstock

divider-pawOther FAQ About Flying With Your Shih Tzu

Q: Does my Shih Tzu need special paperwork to fly?

A: Yes, depending on the airline, you may need certain documents and certifications before you can board your flight with your pet.

Q: What happens if the airline loses my pet?

A: Every airline has different policies and procedures for lost pets, so make sure to check with them beforehand. Most airlines offer insurance and compensation for any pets that go missing during transit.

Q: Does my pet count as a carry-on item?

A: Yes, your pet will count as one of your carry-on items when traveling in the cabin. However, if you are traveling with a service animal, then they may not count against your total number of allowed carry-on items.

shih tzu dog in a sling
Image By: Jen Wolf, Shutterstock

Q: Can I give my Shih Tzu sedatives or tranquilizers before flying?

A: No, it is not advised to give your pet any type of sedative before flying. This could potentially put them at risk due to the altitude and cabin pressure. Talk to your veterinarian for more advice about how best to calm your pet during travel.

Q: What if my dog has to go to the bathroom during the flight?

A: Most airlines will provide you with a special bathroom bag for your pet. Make sure to ask the flight staff for more information about this before boarding the plane.

Q: Are there any weight restrictions on flying with my Shih Tzu?

A: Yes, most airlines have weight limits that vary by breed and size of your pet. Make sure to check with the airline for more information about their weight restrictions before booking your flight.

shih tzu with puppy cut
Image By: AlexFilim, Shutterstock

Q: How should I prepare my Shih Tzu for the flight?

A: Make sure your pet is well-rested, has recently eaten and been to the bathroom. Give them ample time to exercise before flying and bring plenty of treats and toys to keep them entertained during their trip. Talking with your veterinarian can also help you prepare your pet for a safe and comfortable flight.

Q: Can I take my Shih Tzu on international flights?

A: Yes, as long as all of the necessary paperwork and regulations are followed.

Q: Is it dangerous to fly with your dog?

A: No, as long as all of the necessary precautions are taken and regulations are followed, flying with your Shih Tzu can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your pet.

shih tzu with tongue out
Image By: Michael Mong, Shutterstock

Q: Are there any additional costs associated with flying with a pet?

A: Yes, most airlines charge an additional fee for those traveling with pets.

Q: Are there any other options for traveling with a Shih Tzu?

A: Yes, there are many pet-friendly hotels and services that offer accommodations and transportation tailored to your needs. Additionally, you may also consider driving to your destination if it is within a reasonable distance.


Best Practices for Flying With Your Dog

While each airline and airport have their own regulations, there are some general best practices for flying with a small dog.

  • Make sure to check with the airline for any specific regulations regarding pet travel before booking your flight.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to adjust your pet to the new environment and provide them with all necessary comfort items.
  • Consider purchasing pet insurance in case of unexpected events during transit.
  • Obtain any required documents or certifications from your veterinarian before boarding the plane.
  • Be aware of your pet’s weight restrictions and any additional costs associated with flying with a pet.
  • Check in early to ensure that there is enough space for you and your pet.
  • Make sure you understand the proper protocol for disembarking with your pet.
  • Make sure to follow all instructions from the flight staff and be a responsible pet owner at all times.

Following these tips can help make flying with your Shih Tzu an enjoyable experience for both you and your pet.



Overall, it is possible for a Shih Tzu to fly on a plane in the cabin underneath the seat or in the cargo hold. However, pet owners need to be aware of any restrictions or requirements that their airline may have before traveling with their Shih Tzu. By following all of the necessary guidelines and checking with your airline beforehand, you can ensure that your pet has a safe and comfortable flight.

Featured Image Credit: Vineyard Perspective, Shutterstock

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