About half the dog deaths reported by U.S. airlines were short-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, according to a Transportation Department statement issued Friday.
Airlines reported 122 dog deaths since May, 2005. Eliminating data on the deaths of "unknown" and "mixed breeds," approximately half of the pet dogs that died in flight over the last five years belonged to short-faced breeds, such as the English bulldog, pug, French bulldog and American Staffordshire terrier.
Special Rules for Pugs and Bulldogs
Several airlines already acknowledge that these breeds are more at risk. Delta Air Lines (DAL) spokeswoman Susan Elliott said Delta will not transport pug and snub nose dogs or cats if the temperature on any part of their trip exceeds 70 degrees. "[These breeds] are not hot-weather animals and therefore do not thrive in warm temperatures," Elliott said.
American Airlines (AMR) has a similar requirement but sets the temperature limit at 75 degrees.
The Transportation report does not pinpoint the cause of the animal deaths or why short-faced breeds topped the list. The report is based on data from a law requiring airlines to file monthly reports on incidents involving deaths, injury or loss of pets during air transport.
In general, dog deaths on airplanes are attributed to extreme temperatures in the cargo hold, stress, pre-existing conditions and over-medication. About 2 million animals are transported on airlines each year, and dogs are likely to make up at least half of those trips.
Continental Airlines, based on previous Transportation Department reports, has more animal deaths than any other airline. They reported 41 animal deaths between May, 2005, and May of this year.
In a statement, the airlines said: "Necropsy results show that none of these deaths were transit related. Continental has transported approximately 550,000 pets over the past five years. Our PetSafe program is regarded as one of the best in the business, and we've made a substantial investment to ensure the safety and comfort of animals that we transport."
Check With the Vet
Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosely told DailyFinance that the purpose of releasing the data is to make owners of snub-nosed breeds aware that their pets may be more at risk of dying on flights.
Veterinarians have speculated that these breeds are more at risk because they have a harder time breathing, and that can be worsened in tight cargo holds.
American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said there isn't enough data to determine why these breed die more often.
"It's certainly unfortunate that any of these animals expire when flying, but there just isn't enough information to draw any conclusions," Peterson said.
The Transportation Department advises owners of these pets to talk to their veterinarian prior to travel.
Top dog breeds that died in airline transit from May, 2005, to May, 2010:
Number of Deaths
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation