The Dog Breeds (and Cat Breeds) That United Is Banning From Its Flights, Revealed

Some airlines are safer (or more dangerous) than others if you need to fly with your pet. But United Airlines is making some big changes to keep animals safer. The airline decided to bar 21 dog breeds and four cat breeds from flying in the cargo hold. Specifically, the airline chose breeds that have proven prone to health problems caused by heat, travel, and stress.

As a spokesman for United told People, “We are doing this to further minimize risk and ensure the comfort of pets we fly. Prior to today, we flew all sorts of animals. Geese, foxes, leopards, you name it, we pretty much flew it. That will change moving forward.” The airline said on its website that it banned the following dog and cat breeds “out of concern for higher adverse health risks.” Does your favorite make the list?

1. Affenpinscher

The Affie looks like a monkey and is an active, adventurous, curious, stubborn, fun-loving and playful breed.
Their short face can cause health issues. |
  • Height: 9 to 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 7 to 10 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

The Affenpinscher is the first on the list of breeds that will be banned from flying in the cargo hold. The AKC reports that, like other short-faced breeds, Affenpinschers “can experience breathing problems during hot weather if they are permitted to overheat.”

These dogs “then have difficulty panting in order to lower their body temperature, as dogs don’t sweat to keep cool,” the organization explains. So a hot cargo hold is a no-go for these adorable little dogs. But you could still fly with one of these dogs in the cabin.

Next: This is the dog breed that died the most frequently on flights by United, Delta, and American. 

2. American bully 

pit bull stalks another dog
Their face structure also makes flying more dangerous. | Andersen
  • Height: 13 to 21 inches
  • Weight: 70 to 120 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 8 to 12 years

United Airlines has also decided to ban the American bully. The Washington Post reports that on the three largest airlines that accommodate animals — United, Delta, and American — “the type of dog that died most frequently from 2015 to 2017 was the American bully, a breed known for its big jowls and squashed nose.”

Five of the six deaths of these dogs occurred on United, since Delta and American had already banned the breed. The Post notes that of the nine dog breeds with the highest incidence of death on the three airlines, four are brachycephalic breeds that were allowed only on United: the American bully, the Staffordshire terrier, the bulldog, and the pug.

Next: This dog breed has a brachycephalic profile and a strong jaw.

3. American pit bull terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier dog,
United has banned the pit bull category. | horsesdogscats/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 17 to 19 inches
  • Weight30 to 85 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 16 years

DogTime characterizes the American pit bull terrier as “one of the so-called bully breeds often labeled a pit bull. In fact, ‘pit bull’ isn’t a breed, but a term used to describe the American pit bull terrier, the bull terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier.”

NPR points to the breeds that, together, comprise the “pit bull” category as some of the “bigger, strong-jawed dogs,” along with mastiffs and the Belgian Malinois, that United has added to its no-fly list. But the breed also has a somewhat brachycephalic skull.

Next: This dogs were previously banned due to stereotypes about their behavior.

4. American Staffordshire terrier

American Staffordshire terrier
These dogs fall into the pit bull category. |
  • Height: 18 to 19 inches (male) or 17 to 18 inches (female)
  • Weight: 55 to 70 pounds (male) or 40 to 55 pounds (female)
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 16 years

Like the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier frequently gets labeled a “pit bull.” Airlines have had an on-again, off-again flirtation with pit bull bans. In 2002, American Airlines banned Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Staffordshire terriers and pit bull terriers (more due to stereotypes about their behavior than for any health concerns). New regulations in 2012 enabled the dogs to fly as long as they traveled in specific types of crates.

But the ban is effectively back in place at United. However, United isn’t alone in yet again disallowing pit bulls, including the American Staffordshire. Forbes notes that Delta “has similar limitations on dog and cat breeds it will refuse transportation to. Snub-nosed dogs and pit bulls again get the boot.”

Next: These dogs don’t have the same breathing problems as other banned breeds. 

5. Belgian Malinois

belgian malinois
United might think this breed is too strong. | Wikimedia Commons
  • Height: 24 to 26 inches (male) or 22 to 24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 60 to 80 pounds (male) or 40 to 60 pounds (female)
  • Life expectancy: 14 to 16 years

United has also banned the Belgian Malinois from flying in the cargo hold. But this medium-sized dog isn’t a brachycephalic breed. In fact, these dogs technically get classified as mesaticephalic, which means that they have skulls of intermediate length and width. According to the AKC, the biggest health issues to watch out for with a Belgian Malinois include hip and elbow dysplasia and eye problems, not the breathing problems of shorter-nosed breeds.

In fact, The Washington Post reports that the Belgian Malinois “has a 270-degree field of vision and the force of its bite equals 1,400 pounds per square inch.” (If we had to guess, that’s why United banned this strong-jawed breed.) The Post characterizes this breed as “deadly enough to help take out Osama bin Laden, but gentle enough to push a toddler in a toy car.”

Next: These dogs can’t tolerate heat.

6. Boston terrier

Boston terrier
They’re another brachycephalic breed. | Studio-laska/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 15 to 17 inches
  • Weight: 12 to 25 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

United’s choice to add the Boston terrier to the list of banned dog breeds will make sense to just about anybody who’s looked after one of these dogs in the hot weather. As the AKC explains, “Like all flat-faced breeds, Bostons can experience difficulty breathing when not given adequate shelter from excessive heat or humidity.”

CBS adds that it’s long been known that short-nosed breeds — including boxers, pugs, and Boston terriers — are “more susceptible to respiratory issues” than other breeds. In fact, American, Delta, and other airlines have already refused to allow these dogs to travel in the cargo hold. Fortunately, you can still bring small dogs into the United cabin as long as they fit in a carrier that can slide under a seat.

Next: These dogs can’t tolerate extreme temperatures. 

7. Boxer

Close up of a young female pedigree boxer dog indoors
They don’t tolerate flying well. | AntonyMoran/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 23 to 25 inches (male) or 21.5 to 23.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65 to 80 pounds (male) or 50 to 65 (female) 
  • Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

United Airlines has also banned the boxer from flying in the cargo hold due to clear health reasons. The AKC reports, “The Boxer does not have a high tolerance for either extreme heat or cold, and he should always be kept inside the house as a beloved member of the family.” Flying in the cargo hold could prove dangerous for this short-nosed breed no matter the time of year.

Quartz notes that a few of the banned breeds number among the most popular dog breeds in the United States. The AKC assigns the boxer a popularity ranking of 11, for instance. In fact, the boxer is the second most popular dog on the list, coming in only behind the bulldog. (The bulldog has an AKC popularity ranking of 5.)

Next: This dog can experience breathing problems. 

8. Brussels griffon

brussels griffon dog outdoors
They also have a short face. | onetouchspark/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 7 to 10 inches
  • Weight: 8 to 10 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

The Brussels griffon is another banned breed with a short face — and the potential to develop serious health problems when traveling in the cargo hold. The AKC reports of these dogs, “Like all flat-faced breeds, Brussels Griffons can experience breathing problems in sunny, hot, or humid weather, and usually snore.”

As the Smart Living Network reports, most flat-faced breeds suffer from brachycephalic syndrome, “a deformity that includes collapsed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, or aversion of the laryngeal saccules.” The shape of their faces cause heavy breathing, difficulties cooling themselves, snoring, snorting, and wheezing. As the publcation explains, airlines such as United “are not trying to be difficult. In fact, they are putting our beloved pets’ safety first.”

Next: These dogs have died during flights. 

9. Bulldog

American bulldog
All bulldogs got the ban. | White_bcgrd/iStock/Getty Images
  • English bulldog height: 14 to 15 inches
  • English bulldog weight: 50 pounds (male) or 40 pounds (female)
  • English bulldog life expectancy: 8 to 10 years

You can’t fly with any bulldog on United. That includes American bulldogs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Old English Bulldogges, shorty bulldogs, and dogs of the breed known as the Spanish Alano, Spanish bulldog, or Alano Español. All of these breeds are banned from flying in the cargo hold. And many grow too big to fit into carriers that would enable them to travel in the cabin.

As The New York Times reported years ago, in 2011, bulldogs had already been banned by many commercial airlines “not for the dogs’ bark or bite, but because so many have died in flight.” Some affluent dog owners now put their dogs on private flights operated by companies that specifically cater to brachycephalic dogs and their jetsetting owners.

Next: These dogs have also died in-flight. 

10. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

cute cavalier king charles spaniel dog
They have died on flights. | Buffy1982/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 12 to 13 inches
  • Weight: 13 to 18 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

United has also banned the Cavalier King Charles spaniel from traveling in the cargo hold. Typically, as the AKC’s statistics illustrate, these dogs typically remain small enough that they should be able to travel with you in the cabin, on flights operated by United or another airline.

Unfortunately, Cavalier King Charles spaniels have died in-flight in the past, including on a United Airlines plane. Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome “is an inherited condition in the cavalier King Charles spaniel,” Cavalier Health reports. “The breed is pre-disposed to it, due to the comparatively short length of the cavalier’s head and a compressed upper jaw.”

Next: This dog is adorable, but can have breathing problems. 

11. Chow chow

Chow Chow dog
They could face health issues while flying. | Evgeny_Kozhevnikov/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 8 to 12 years

The AKC reports that chow chows are dignified and adaptable, which makes it sound like they’d take to travel well. But United has banned this dog breed from flying in the cargo hold on its flights because of its status as a brachycephalic breed.

As PetCareRX explains of the chow chow and other breeds, “Because the flat face is so popular, these dogs have been bred for their looks, but many suffer from airway issues as a result. The flat face is the result of a smaller upper jaw, in which the tissues inside are bigger than the jaw can allow.”

Next: This dog breed should always have adequate ventilation. 

12. English toy spaniel

English toy spaniel
They don’t do well in heat. | Bigandt_Photography/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 9 to 10 inches
  • Weight: 8 to 14 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

United has also banned the English toy spaniel, known alternately as the Prince Charles spaniel. Fortunately, as the breed’s AKC profile illustrates, these dogs typically remain small enough that your dog should be able to travel in the cabin with you.

As DogTime reports of the breed, “An English Toy Spaniel should be monitored in hot weather because his short muzzle makes him susceptible to heat exhaustion. He should live in a home with adequate ventilation and air conditioning, and his time outdoors should be limited during hot and humid weather.”

Next: These dogs have short muzzles. 

13. Japanese chin

Japanese Chin
They have a high risk of health complications. | MementoImage/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 8 to 11 inches
  • Weight: 7 to 11 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

United has also banned the Japanese chin, or Japanese spaniel, from traveling in the cargo hold on its flights. Most people know these dogs for their large heads and short muzzles. Pet Travel characterizes the Japanese chin as one of the breeds with the highest risk of complications resulting from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. But as the publication notes, that doesn’t make their owners love them any less.

“Why are these breeds so attractive to pet owners? Perhaps the flattened face takes on more human-like appearance?” the publication muses. “The bulging eyes that some breeds exhibit are more expressive? The snores remind us of our sleeping habits? Whatever the reason, snub-nosed breeds are in high demand, especially the French Bulldog which just took the place of the Labrador and the most popular breed.”

Next: This dog breed doesn’t have as many respiratory problems as some of the other banned breeds. 

14. Lhasa Apso

The long haired, bearded Lasa dog has heavy straight long coat and is a companion dog.
They can’t fly in cargo. |
  • Height: 10 to 11 inches (male) or slightly smaller (female)
  • Weight: 12 to 18 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

United has banned the Lhasa Apso from flying in the cargo hold on its planes. But as Easy Pet MD reports, “the relatively longer face and muzzle of the Lhasa Apso means that that this breed has far fewer respiratory problems than most brachycephalic breeds.  Luckily for the Lhasa Apso, most of the conditions from which it suffers are not life threatening or even life-shortening.”

Similarly, the AKC reports, “The most serious health problem in the breed is hereditary kidney dysfunction, which can be present in mild to severe form.”

Next: United has banned just about every type of this breed. 

15. Mastiff

Mastiff dog
No mastiffs can fly. | Byrdyak/iStock/Getty Images
  • American mastiff height: 30 inches and up (male) or 27.5 inches and up (female)
  • American mastiff weight: 160 to 230 pounds (male) or 120 to 170 pounds (female)
  • American mastiff life expectancy: 6 to 10 years

United won’t let you fly with any breed of mastiff. That includes the American mastiff, Boerboel or South African mastiff, bullmastiff, Ca de Bou or Mallorquin mastiff, Cane Corso or Italian mastiff, Dogo Argentino or Argentinian mastiff, Dogue de Bourdeaux or French mastiff, English mastiff, Fila Brasileiro or Brazilian mastiff, Indian mastiff or Alangu, Turkish Kangal, Mastino Napoletano or Neapolitan mastiff, Pakistani mastiff or Bully Kutta, Pyrenean mastiff, Perro de Presa Canario or Canary mastiff, Spanish mastiff, Tibetan mastiff, and the Japanese mastiff.

As CBS notes, mastiffs and other large dogs are “effectively banned” from flying on United at all. The current rule change just establishes that the listed dog breeds can’t fly in the cargo hold. But because mastiffs (and other large breeds) are much too big to fit in carriers that can slide under a seat, they can’t fly in the cabin, either. As the AKC notes, “Mastiffs are magnificent pets, but acquiring a powerful giant-breed dog is commitment not to be taken lightly.”

Next: United doesn’t want these small dogs flying in the cargo hold. 

16. Pekingese

dog breed Pekingese
This breed is notoriously brachycephalic. |
  • Height: 6 to 9 inches
  • Weight: Up to 14 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Anyone familiar with the short, but adorable, face of the Pekingese will feel unsurprised to hear that United has banned the breed from flying in the cargo hold on its flights. The importance of looking out for the health of this brachycephalic breed is well-documented. The AKC recommends considering it even when you choose your puppy. “As with all short-faced breeds, it is important to choose a Pekingese with wide-open nostrils on a moderate-sized nose.”

The Washington Post counts the Pekingese among the short-faced breeds that airlines other than United have refused to transport in the cargo hold, “arguing that the risk of death or injury (and liability to the airline) was too high.” United justified its choice to continue accepting “snub-nosed” breeds by noting that it was often the only way these dogs could travel by air. According to the Post, the airline said it “alerted customers to the heightened danger of putting their higher-risk dog on a plane.” But airline representatives would leave it up to customers “to decide whether their pet could handle the trip.”

Next: These dogs don’t do well when it’s too hot or too cold. 

17. Pug

They’re also brachycephalic. | Max Bailen/Getty Images
  • Height: 10 to 13 inches
  • Weight: 14 to 18 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

When you talk about short-faced breeds, most people think of the pug. So it comes as no surprise that United Airlines has decided to disallow pugs from flying in the cargo hold. Right off the bat, the AKC warns that these dogs “do best in moderate climates — not too hot, not too cold — but, with proper care, Pugs can be their adorable selves anywhere.” The group adds, “Like all flat-faced breeds, Pugs sometimes experience breathing problems and do poorly in sunny, hot, or humid weather.”

United has banned all pugs, including the Dutch pug and the Japanese pug. The Washington Post notes that pugs number among the breeds with the highest number of deaths on United, Delta, and American Airlines between 2015 and 2017.

Next: United has banned this high-risk breed. 

18. Shar-Pei

Shar Pei dog
They can suffer respiratory issues. | Victoria Photography
  • Height: 18 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 60 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 8 to 12 years

United won’t let you fly with the Shar-Pei or Chinese Shar-Pei, a breed that the AKC warns can suffer respiratory issues. But Kitty Block, acting president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, told The Washington Post that instead of banning brachycephalic breeds like the Shar-Pei, she wishes that the airline would find ways to accommodate the needs of these high-risk breeds.

“The fact is that while there is some risk with traveling with a brachycephalic breed on a plane, traveling with them in the cabin can be done safely if the right measures are taken by both the owner and the airline,” Block explained to the publication. “And that is what we’re asking for — that airlines take steps to reduce the risk of flying with pets, regardless of breed, as much as possible.” However, flying in the cabin may not be an option for the Shar-Pei, given the dog’s size.

Next: These small dogs can’t fly in the cargo hold. 

19. Shih Tzu

Little beauty shih-tzu dog at the groomer's hand
They don’t tolerate heat well. | Tailex/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 9 to 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 9 to 16 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10 to 18 years

The AKC cites the Shih Tzu’s long coat and short face as two reasons why these dogs don’t tolerate heat well. These dogs can no longer fly in the cargo hold on flights operated by United Airlines. But fortunately for travelers who have to take their dogs with them, these dogs are typically small enough to fit into a carrier that could slide under a seat in the cabin.

NPR reports that though United is banning brachycephalic breeds for now, the airline could make adjustments to its rules and policies in the future. “American Humane will be performing a top-to-bottom examination of every aspect of air travel affecting the health and welfare of animals, and making recommendations for changes and adjustments to United’s service.”

Next: These dogs can’t handle heat. 

20. Staffordshire bull terrier

Pit Bull
They have died on recent flights. | AsyaPozniak/iStock/Getty Images
  • Height: 14 to 16 inches 
  • Weight: 28 to 38 pounds 
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years

The Washington Post reports that three Staffordshire bull terriers died on flights operated by United, Delta, and American Airlines between 2015 and 2017. So United has opted to ban these brachycephalic dogs from traveling in the cargo hold on future flights.

DogTime reports that Staffordshire bull terriers “do not handle heat very well and need to be monitored on hot days to ensure that they don’t overheat.” In addition to releasing its list of banned breeds, United has also announced that it will also protect pets from extreme heat conditions by declining to fly animals in the cargo hold to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson between May 1 and September 30.

Next: These small dogs can have breathing difficulties. 

21. Tibetan spaniel

A Tibetan Spaniel looking thoughtful
They also have breathing issues. |
  • Height: 10 inches
  • Weight: 9 to 15 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

The AKC reports that Tibetan spaniels are generally very healthy dogs. But they are affected by brachycephalic syndrome. As Animal Care of Gloucester reports of the Tibetan spaniel, “He has the same amount of tissue in his nose and throat as the longer-nosed dogs, but there’s no place for it to go. As a consequence, the soft palate (the soft part at the back of the roof of the mouth), is too long and hangs down into the airway.”

These dogs often have undersized nostrils and narrow windpipes, which can also lead to an obstructed airway. USA Today reports that Tibetan spaniels and other brachycephalic breeds can experience difficulty breathing if they fly in the cargo hold.

Next: United has also banned a few cat breeds from flying in the cargo hold. 

22. Burmese

Burmese Cat
They have brachycephalic skulls. | Nickolas Titkov/Wikimedia Commons

It’s not just dog breeds that United Airlines has banned from flying in the cargo hold. The airline also wants to do a better job of looking out for the safety of the cats who travel with their owners. As the VCA Animal Hospital explains, cats can also have brachycephalic skulls and “pushed-in” faces. The group notes, “Persian, Himalayan and Burmese cats are the most well-recognized brachycephalic breeds of cats.”

The Washington Post reports that from 2015 to 2017, several cats died while traveling on flights operated by United Airlines. The Smithsonian reports that air travel can bring on dangerous breathing problems for brachycephalic cats like the Burmese at least in part because of the stressful conditions of the plane’s cargo hold.

Next: This cat breed can’t handle heat. 

23. Exotic shorthair

Exotic shorthair cat breed
Their nostrils make them sensitive to heat. | Heikki Siltala/Wikimedia Commons
  • Weight: Up to 15 pounds

The exotic shorthair is a cat that, according to PetMD, “can be succinctly described as being a short-haired Persian, since for all intents, it meets every standard for the Persian breed, except for the coat.” United has banned this cat breed from flying in the cargo hold on its flights, and PetMD reports that the exotic’s shorter nostrils make these cats sensitive to heat.

“High temperatures may lead to breathing problems. Add that to the heavier coat, and you have a breed that will look for ways to stay cool.” Smithsonian Magazine reports that when animals die in a plane’s cargo hold, they often die of either heat or stress. Fortunately, these cats typically stay small enough that they could fly in the cabin with you instead of going in the cargo hold.

Next: Cats of this breed can have flat faces and difficulty breathing. 

24. Himalayan

Himalayan Cat
They have breathing problems. | Celesty/iStock/Getty Images
  • Weight: 7 to 12 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 9 to 15 years

CatTime characterizes the Himalayan, another cat breed that United has banned from flying in the cargo hold on its flights, as “a man-made breed developed by crossing Persians with Siamese to bring in the color points and blue eyes of the Siamese.” The publication notes that Himalayans come in different “looks,” known as extreme and traditional. One variant has more breathing problems than the other.

“‘Extreme’ Himalayans, those see in the show ring, have a flatter face, which may come with breathing problems,” the publication notes. “Cats with the traditional look have a more old-fashioned appearance, with a face that is not as flat and a nose that is set lower on the face with more of a ‘break,’ permitting easier breathing.”

Next: These cats can have serious breathing problems. 

25. Persian

White Persian Cat
They can have very flat faces. | Airubon/iStock/Getty Images
  • Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

Finally, United Airlines has also banned Persian cats from flying in the cargo hold. CatTime reports that, like Himalayans, Persians come in different looks. “Some, known as Peke-face Persians, have an extremely flat face. Think twice about the breathing problems such a cat might have before deciding to get one,” the publication advises. The warning seems especially useful for people who will do a lot of traveling. CatTime adds, “‘Doll-face’ Persians are said to have a more old-fashioned appearance, with a face that is not as flat as the show Persian or the Peke-face Persian.”

If you want to fly with any pet, Smithsonian Magazine recommends consulting with your vet. You should avoid flying your pet during the host summer months. Always arrange for direct flights to decrease your chance of delays. If possible, purchase your pet a space in the cabin, not in the cargo hold. And don’t fly snub-nosed dogs or cats.

Read more: How This New Device Can Help You Keep Your Pet Safe on an Airplane

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