An Air Canada pilot diverted an international flight to rescue a pup in peril.

The Toronto-bound plane departed Tel Aviv on Sunday when the pilot noticed one of the cargo hold heaters had malfunctioned.

Inside was a dog identified in media reports as Simba.

"The captain grew rightfully concerned for the dog's comfort and wellbeing," Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, told CBC in an email. "With the altitude it can become very uncomfortable, and possibly the situation could have been life threatening if the flight had continued."

Air Canada rules state that ambient temperatures need to be at a minimum of 10 degrees when dealing with canine travellers.

The pilot decided to divert the flight to Frankfurt, where Simba was transferred to another plane.

The Tel Aviv flight arrived in Toronto just 75 minutes behind schedule.

Fitzpatrick said though there were 232 passengers on board, "the overall reaction was positive, particularly once people understood the dog was in potential danger but safe as a result of the diversion."

With files from The Canadian Press