How to Fly Internationally With a Dog
Flying internationally with a dog can be a stressful (and even dangerous) experience, for both you and the dog. You need to prepare well so that you are aware of all of the regulations and restrictions involved with both your airline and the country or countries that you plan to visit. Additionally, you will need to schedule a visit with your veterinarian so that you can obtain the necessary paperwork international travel entails. Finally, you need to consider how your dog will travel and whether your dog will be in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold. If you think ahead and plan carefully, the process can be made simpler, and you and your dog can arrive safely at your destination.
Planning Your Travel
1. Begin planning early. There are so many factors to consider when traveling internationally with a dog that it pays to start your planning as early as possible. You will need to plan your trip, book your flights, and sort out your paperwork well in advance—ideally months ahead, if possible.
- Remember to reach out to the hotel or home you'll be staying at and ask if it's OK for you to bring your dog along.
- Ensure that your pet can handle travel and is not hampered by age, illness, or injury.
2. Check your countries’ pet travel regulations. Each country has different regulations regarding the entry of dogs. Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to determine their specific rules, or visit their website. Read these regulations thoroughly and ensure that you comply with them.
- Some countries do not allow foreign dogs to enter, while others require a lengthy quarantine process for foreign dogs.
- Remember that you must check your own country’s requirements as well, since it may have restrictions on “re-importing” your dog when you return home.
- Several websites also offer information regarding rules for individual countries regarding pet entry, like https://www.bringfido.com/travel/international/.
- Find out if there are restrictions on the number or types of dogs that can enter the country you are visiting.
3. Research the airline’s restrictions. Different airlines have different policies on transporting dogs internationally. Before booking your ticket, make sure you can bring your dog with you on that airline. Also check to see whether your dog will be accepted as checked or carry-on baggage, or whether you will have to use a cargo designation. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that pets travel in the cabin when possible.
- Be sure to check what breeds your airline allows to fly. In particular, some airlines will refuse to fly some toy or short-nose breeds, or puppies or elderly dogs.
- If your dog accompanies you in the cabin, you will need to pay a fee and the dog will need to fit comfortably in its crate under the seat in front of you.
- If your dog must travel in cargo, check whether the cargo area for dogs is controlled for climate and pressure. This is a basic necessity for flying with a dog, and you should not fly your dog with an airline that doesn’t do this.
4. Call the airline to notify them that you are bringing your dog. Most airlines do not allow for booking space for animals online. Once you have booked your own tickets, phone the airline immediately afterwards to reserve space for your dog, since some airlines limit the number of dogs allowed on board per flight.
- When you're on the phone with the airline, ask where your dog can go to the bathroom in the terminal so you're prepared when you get to the airport.
5. Book direct flights when possible. This prevents mistakes arising from transferring your dog from one flight to another and minimizes disruption, which could cause your dog stress.
6. Tailor your flight to the time of year if your dog is flying in cargo. If your dog isn't traveling in the cabin, consider the climate when booking your flight. If it is a warm summer, fly in the early morning or late evening. If the temperature is colder, fly at midday.
Preparing Your Dog
1. Visit your veterinarian. The health requirements for flying with a dog vary from country to country, but nearly all require a health certificate from your veterinarian stating that your dog is free of infectious diseases. Your veterinarian will also determine whether your dog is healthy enough to endure international air travel.
- Typically, the pet health certificate must be current (no older than 10 days) for the airline to accept it. Be sure you are aware of these rules before boarding.
- Some countries require blood tests at least 6 months prior to departure to ensure that your dog is vaccinated against rabies.
- You should also obtain a vaccination record from your veterinarian that shows all of your dog's vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Bring your veterinarian’s contact information with you.
- Talk to your vet about getting anti-anxiety medication for your dog to help it relax during the flight.
2. Consider implanting a microchip. Proper identification is key when traveling internationally with your dog, and the American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends having your dog implanted with a microchip to make it easier to find your pet if it becomes lost. Talk with your vet about whether this is the right option for your pet.
- If you do not have a microchip implanted, be sure your dog has properly secured tags with up-to-date information.
- You should include a travel ID tag with the contact number for your accommodations and your local contact number while traveling.
3. Familiarize your dog with its carrier. Your dog will need a sturdy, comfortable carrier that is the proper size. Accustom your dog to being in the crate and being jostled and moved in ways it's not used to. Take several trips in your car with your dog in the crate before your flight to help with this.
- Getting your dog used to its crate is a long-term process, which usually takes several weeks. Again, begin early.
- Taking the time to properly acclimate your dog to its crate will help ease your dog’s stress level during the flight.
Getting Ready for the Flight
1. Prepare your pet’s crate. Place soft bedding, puppy pads, and water and food dishes in the crate. Attach contact information on the crate as well, including your dog’s name, your contact information (both phone and e-mail), flight numbers, and your final destination. Tape it to the crate, preferably with a strong adhesive tape so it doesn’t come loose.
- Attach a food bag and water bottle to the outside of the crate if your dog will be flying as a checked item. Airline personnel will need to be able to access this without opening the crate.
- Don't forget to bring along waste bags in case you need to clean up a mess your dog makes.
2. Groom and exercise your dog. You want your dog to be as comfortable as possible while on a long flight, so give it a thorough brushing to remove any excess hair the day before your flight. Take your dog on a few extra walks that day as well, so that it is worn out and less stressed for the flight.
3. Reduce your dog’s food intake. The day before you fly, feed your dog a bit less than normal to help it have an emptier stomach for the flight. Be sure to give it plenty of water during this time, however, to help avoid dehydration.
- This is dependent on the age and breed of your dog: if you are flying with a young puppy or a toy breed puppy, you shouldn’t withhold food. Check with your vet for more specific recommendations about food intake.
4. Board the flight with a tired, satisfied dog. Before you go to the airport and before you check in, take your dog for a few last walks to really make sure it will be as calm and tired as possible for the flight. These walks will also give your dog a chance to eliminate waste. Additionally, feed your dog a very light meal two hours before checking in to further help it remain calm.
- It is a legal requirement in the U.S. to feed your dog two hours before check in.
Managing the Flight Itself
1. Check in your pet early if it is flying as cargo. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of securing a quiet place in the baggage area for your dog. If possible, watch your dog being loaded on to the plane. If this is not possible, ensure that you are notified when your dog has been boarded. When you fly, notify the captain and crew that your dog is on board. They may take special steps to ensure your dog’s safety and comfort.
2. Board late if your dog is in the cabin. Since your dog will be in its crate under the seat in front of you in the cabin, it is wise to spend as little time as possible on the plane.
3. Keep your dog on your lap as long as possible. While you won’t be able to remove your dog from its carrier while you’re onboard, you can keep the carrier on your lap before takeoff. This is a good time to talk gently with your dog and reassure it that you are there. You can also gently massage or pet your dog through the carrier at this time.
4. Offer ice or kibble throughout the flight. You don’t want to fill your dog’s belly while up in the air, but an occasional piece of kibble offered multiple times throughout the flight will be a welcome distraction for your dog. You can also offer your dog an ice cube to play with, and this distraction can also help keep your dog hydrated.
5. Make sure your dog is warm enough. Flights can be cold, so bring an extra blanket from home and keep it easily accessible. Check on your dog periodically to see whether the blanket is needed.
6. Avoid mid-air escape. One problem that can arise when your dog is flying cargo or in the cabin is that it can escape. To prevent this from occurring, be sure that the door is tightly secured and that your dog cannot escape by chewing the plastic on the kennel or crate.
7. Prepare for arrival. As you are getting ready to land, gather all of your paperwork necessary to identify your dog, any shipping documentation you have received, and your pet’s health and vaccination records. You will need all of this information in order to pick up your dog if it was in the cargo hold and to pass through customs inspections. Also identify where the cargo terminal is, if that is where you will be meeting your dog.
8. Examine your dog as soon as you arrive. If your pet flew in the cargo hold, it is essential to inspect your dog to make sure it didn’t suffer any injuries or problems during the flight. Let it out of its kennel for the exam, and if any problems are apparent, seek veterinary care immediately.
- If you're flying into a destination with extreme temperatures that are different than where you live, it might be better to not take your dog along on your trip. Dogs can struggle to adjust to extreme temperature changes.