No matter how well you prepare for international travel with a dog, it can be a stressful experience. It requires a lot of phone calls, measurements, confirmations, and of course worry about your fur baby during the flight itself.
We believe however -especially after seeing how many dogs are abandoned or given away due to the belief that international flying is not worth the hassle, that leaving your pet behind is not the only answer. We consider Sora as we would a child and for us, it’s worth the extra effort and cost to bring her along. We would never leave her behind.
Flying and country entry requirements are specific, but not unattainable. Requirements and costs for pet travel vary among the different airlines, so we are unable to provide universal information, but each airline should have a pet travel page that lists their exact requirements.
Dogs weighing over 8kg are not permitted to fly on board and must be checked along with the baggage. Sora is a certified Emotional Support Animal, so depending on the airline and destination, she can fly in cabin with us.
With these tips, you should be well on your way to preparing your furry friend to join your adventure.
Before booking your flight, check with your vet to ensure that your dog is in good health. Some vets offer travel services and have someone on hand familiar with pet travel.
Also keep in mind that some dog breeds, like pugs and other snub-nosed breed are not permitted to fly due to their body mechanics, which can cause respiratory failures, other breeds, like pit bulls may not be allowed in certain countries.
Booking Your Flight
Flights allow only a few animals shipped as cargo per flight, so before buying a ticket, call the airline to ensure they have space for your dog. Ask if the cargo area is air-conditioned. This is essential to your pet’s health.
The airline may require a minimum layover for those traveling with dogs as cargo, so be sure to review the airline’s policy about pets and layovers.
Once you’ve booked your flight, call again a month or two before your departure date and confirm they know that you will be bringing a pet on board. Call them once again a week before you leave to confirm once again. You can never call too often.
Airlines have very specific requirements for kennels, depending on the weight and size of your dog. Follow these guidelines exactly, or your dog may be refused at check in. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) provides the information for the size you’ll need for your dog.
Typically, airlines require water and feeding bowls attached to the inside of the kennel. Write your dog’s name, as well as your contact information, and place a “live animal” sticker on the kennel and make sure your dog has ID on her.
We also ensured Sora felt safe in her kennel leading up to our flight. We had her “kennel up” for dinner and fed her her meals inside.
As we prepared the kennel for our flight, we lined it with her bed and topped it with puppy pads in case she needed to relieve herself during the flight.
Food and Water
Flying on a full stomach might upset your pup, so it is recommended not to feed your pet more than four hours before the flight. It’s OK to give your dog water leading up to the flight, just make sure to give her a walk outside before heading through security to make sure she’s eliminated as much as possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask the staff at the gate to check on the status of your dog. We asked before each flight to ensure she made it onto the plane, as well as after we landed in Frankfurt during our layover.
When you step onto the plane, let the captain and the flight attendants know that you are traveling with your dog in cargo so they are aware in case anything goes wrong with equipment like air conditioning or cabin pressure during the flight.
Border Entry Requirements
The most frequently asked question we receive from people about traveling internationally with a dog is in regard to quarantine.
Fortunately, only a handful of countries – typically island nations and those which are rabies-free require quarantine. Depending on the origin of the country (meaning the country from which your dog enters, not the country where your dog resides with you pre-travel), rabies-free nations may deny entry if you enter from a nation with high incidents of rabies.
Many, but not all countries require the following:
• ISO microchip (which operates on a different frequency from those used in the United States)
• Recent rabies vaccination, administered no fewer than 30 days prior to entry and is not over one year
• Blood titer test in some cases
• Flea, tick, and tapeworm treatment
• A health certificate provided by a local veterinarian no older than 10 days prior to entry
• Government Export Paperwork from the country of origin (Department of Agriculture or USDA equivalent)
• Pet Passport, if applicable
If Arriving By Air
Countries will require you to call a phone number and fax paperwork to the airport customs veterinarians 24 hours before your arrival. Once you land, you should claim your dog as goods and there, they will check your dog’s credentials.
At customs, they will ask for all of your paperwork, stamp it, and then hopefully you’ll be on your way. Once outside of the airport doors, let that pup out to go potty and do some down dogs!
If Arriving By Land
Simply obtain the required documents and claim your dog to the agricultural authorities when you stamp in yourself. They will likely ask you to make a gazillion copies, but usually have copy machines nearby.
We’ve had to take Sora to countless veterinarians to meet entry requirements, especially in South America. It’s a pain, but also surprisingly simple -once you get used to it, and inexpensive, compared to the exorbitant fees charged by US veterinary practices.
If you plan to cross multiple borders with your pup, the most important piece of advice we can offer is to remember is to look ahead at where you will be traveling and understand the entry requirements for each individual country at least one month prior to travel. Pet Travel is a great place to start, but always confirm the requirements by contacting the office in charge of animal importation for the destination country.
As mentioned several times in this article, each country and airline is different. Ensure that you know all of the exact requirements prior to departing. We emailed and called people constantly to certify we had everything we needed. Governments work slowly around the world, so get to work early – at least three months before departure, especially for first-time travelers.
We hope these tips help you prepare you for traveling internationally with a dog and alleviate some of the headache that goes along with the adventure.
Bio: Jen is a writer, photographer and blogger at Long Haul Trekkers. In April 2015, she and her partner, along with their Australian Shepherd, Sora quit their jobs and left their Portland, OR home to cycle tour in Europe. They have cycled from Oslo to Greece, via the Balkans and Turkey and are now on a journey in South America. Follow their adventures at www.longhaultrekkers.com, or at Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.