Buying a Dog Online? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Don’t rely on airlines to keep a pup safe if she’s flying solo — better to go yourself to meet the breeder and your new best friend.

The smaller the pup, the higher the risk to her health when she’s traveling solo in the cargo section of an airplane. By: ger_dekker

Many of us are doing more and more shopping online. The same goes for puppy shopping.

If you are interested in a specific breed of pup, chances are you may not find a havanese or a Brussels Griffon breeder in your area. When beginning your online search, think about how that puppy from a faraway state is going to reach your home.

Personally, I would never buy a puppy sight unseen. Let me clarify that: I would never buy a puppy — period.

Never Fly a Puppy in Cargo

That should be a fact, not an opinion.

In an ideal world, no animal should be shipped or travel without a human being by its side. An adult dog, however, is sturdier than a puppy and will generally fair well if you and the airline follow proper safety guidelines.

But a puppy is more fragile in both health and temperament. A terrifying airplane ride can create severe anxiety in a young pup. Worse, flying a puppy in cargo is dangerous to her health and possibly her life. The risks, such as exposure to extreme temperatures and emotional trauma from being crated and isolated, should stop any prospective puppy purchaser or responsible breeder from this practice.

Never trust an airline to take special care of a pup on the tarmac. Airlines often fly dogs when the temperatures are too cold or too hot — and certain unscrupulous veterinarians working with breeders will actually write airline travel health certificates to allow for temps under 35 or over 75 degrees. These conditions are not safe, particularly for a puppy.

Purchasing an Internet Puppy Is a Risky Business

The puppy mill breeders are very savvy when it comes to misrepresentation. Puppy websites can show healthy little pups frolicking in a grassy space when they are actually in disgusting cages with pathetic, overbred moms.

If you don’t make a personal visit and fly a pup unseen, you may get to the airport to find a pet not pictured, an unhealthy pet or no pet at all. Not visiting your pup and breeder before purchasing is worrisome on many levels.

Size and Age of the Puppy Matter

Some airlines have age and size restrictions, although many will fly a pup in cargo at 8 weeks of age. This is too young. Lungs are not always fully developed at such a young age, impairing oxygen intake, particularly in a stressful situation.

Size matters, too. The smaller the pup, the higher the chance she can’t regulate her temperature or blood sugar.  Small pups, toy breeds especially, run the risk of a hypoglycemic episode when under stress or when food is withheld. (Food is not allowed in dog crates on airlines for risk of choking.)

Hypoglycemia occurs when a pup’s blood sugar falls well below 100, which can happen very quickly. The hypoglycemic puppy becomes weak and may have a seizure if her blood sugar falls dangerously low. In the worst-case scenario, she could die.

Your pup will be much safer in the main cabin instead of in cargo. By: Can Do Canines

Short, Direct Flights Are a Must

Anything longer than a 3-hour flight poses a risk to a pup.

Remember — there is additional time before and after landing when that pup would not be in the company of a caring human. A 3-hour flight can mean 6 hours door to door, assuming there are no airline delays.

Pet Transport Services Are Costly

If you’re going to spend several hundred dollars for a pet travel nanny, it’s really better to just go yourself. This way, you can meet the puppy and the breeder at the point of origin. If a breeder squawks about meeting you at his “home” or at the airport, this is a big red flag. Walk away.

Good luck in your puppy search, but try to keep it local. And if “local” means an 8-hour car trip to meet and pick up your pup in person, do it! Bonding with your breeder and your pup in person is the way to go.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Jan. 25, 2017.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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