(DOGS/PET TRAVEL) Traveling long distances can be much easier via air. But as a pet parent, you’ll need to know about certain airline policies when it comes to boarding the plane with your furry friend. This is especially true if you have a cat or a dog who is considered a Brachycephalic breed.

Air travel can be particularly dangerous for animals with ‘pushed in’ (or, brachycephalic) faces as their short nasal passages leave them vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Photo Credit: Robert Mooney / Getty Images

As early as 2010, many airlines like Delta, American, Continental, and United implemented pet breed restrictions, including banning pets who are likely to suffer from Brachycephalic Syndrome.

Airlines specifically targeted this issue when the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that a large percentage of the animal fatalities on-board flights were Brachycephalic.

You’re probably wondering why breeds with this syndrome are now banned from traveling on airplanes. Continue reading for more on how to plan your next air travel with your cat, dog, or even pet bunny as a well-informed pet guardian.

What Does ‘Brachycephalic’ Mean?

Brachycephaly means ‘short head,’ so Brachycephalic breeds carry this cute, but potentially deadly physical characteristic. There are plenty of cats and dogs who fit the description, but there are actually four anatomical abnormalities that could determine whether a pet has this problem:

  • Stenotic nares or narrow nostrils
  • Short or reduced trachea size
  • Short or irregular nasal turbinate
  • Elongated soft palate

There’s not one clear explanation as to how such genetic abnormalities came to exist, but there are some theories on why these breeds have short snouts or faces.

Some believe dogs with Brachycephalic syndrome were intentionally bred to have short faces as this characteristic would make them better fighters. Others suspect that short-faced pets were preferred by pet guardians because of their resemblance to a human baby.

Even though smaller-faced pets can be adorable, their short noses can cause a number of potential health problems.

What’s the Danger in Flying with a Brachycephalic Pet?

While a cat or dog with a normal-sized face and nose has enough space for the anatomical components of their noses (i.e. the nasal passages, hard palate, and soft tissues), Brachycephalic pets are often prone to respiratory problems.

So when these types of pets are boarded onto an airplane–specifically in cargo–they may have a difficult time breathing. Stress can cause their airways to tighten and lack of air supply can make them lose consciousness.

What’s more, Brachycephalic pets who are overweight are increasingly more prone to having breathing issues.

What are the Characteristics of Brachycephalic Breeds?

Aside from their small faces and short snouts, these breeds also tend to get tired easily when playing or exercising.

You might also notice they often wheeze and breathe with their mouths open–but don’t be alarmed as this still means they are breathing normally.

Brachycephalic breeds also snore and tend to gasp for air after running or walking. It could be a challenge to exercise this type of pet without over-exhausting them, but even if they display these characteristics, exercise is still equally important.

What Pet Breeds are Brachycephalic?

If you’re wondering which breeds are considered Brachycephalic, here’s a list of some of the more popular breeds on the no-fly list, as provided by Purring Pal:


  • American Bully
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Boxers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chow Chow
  • Japanese Chin and Spaniel
  • Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shih-Tzu


  • Burmese
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Himalayan
  • Persian

Some airlines also include short-faced bunnies on their no-fly list (i.e. Lionheads and Netherlands Dwarf rabbits).

If your pet is not listed above but exhibits the characteristics of a Brachycephalic breed, make sure to first check with the airline of your choice before booking a flight.

But there’s still hope if you absolutely must travel with a Brachycephalic pet. Luckily there are a number of airline carriers that will allow your pet to ride with you in the passenger cabin (if they weigh less than 20 pounds), but keep in mind there are typically added fees for this.