Let’s face it, having to fly internationally with a dog is not fun, it’s a lot of work, and it’s stressful for both human and the furry friend.
But flying with a dog doesn’t have to be painful. While this article focuses specifically on flying internationally with a dog, a lot of the information can be useful for flying domestically with cats and dogs.
Please keep in mind, since each airline has different rules (like Delta who made changes in March of 2018 and Alaska Airlines in May 2018), it’s important to check with specific airlines for up-to-date information. However, the guidelines below should help get you started and cover most of the planning.
Is it Safe to Fly with a Dog?
If you’re considering flying with your dog, you have no doubt heard the horror stories about flying with pets, leaving you to wonder whether it is safe to fly with a dog.
I do think it is safe to bring your pet (both in cabin and as cargo), so long as you do extensive homework and prep work beforehand. Pets fly regularly without issue–think about animal shelters that transport between states or dog show attendees.
Some dog breeds, like pugs and other brachycephalic are not permitted to fly due to their body mechanics that cause respiratory failures.
If your dog is flying in the cargo, ask if the cargo area is air-conditioned. This is essential to your dog’s health.
Keep in mind that airlines enforce temperature restrictions and will not fly with a dog if the forecasted temperature exceeds 85℉ or drops below 45℉. It’s best to find a flight that arrives early in the morning or late at night.
Will Flying be Stressful for My Dog?
Most dogs will likely experience some stress flying. It will be a new high-stimulation environment and if your dog is not used to busy areas or being alone for long periods of time, they will feel more stressed.
Here are a few tips to best prepare your dog for a flight:
The more reps you get in with training, the more relaxed and prepared your dog will be for the flight.
Do Your Research and Talk to Your Vet
Before booking your flight, check with your vet to ensure that your dog is in good enough health to fly. You will be required to present health documentation multiple times throughout your journey proving that you dog is in good health and is up-to-date on their vaccinations (more about this below).
Before booking your appointment with your veterinarian, check with your local USDA (if you’re in the US, otherwise your local national agriculture government arm) to check that your vet is an accredited veterinarian.
The vet must be endorsed by the USDA or the paperwork is not valid.
Ask whether they have worked with individuals traveling abroad with their pets. It can be quite complicated and working with a knowledgeable veterinarian will make for a smoother process.
Will I Have to Quarantine My Dog?
The most frequently asked question we receive from people about traveling with a dog internationally is whether they will have to quarantine, and for how long. It seems a common misconception that when one travels with a dog that it must face a quarantine period.
Fortunately, only a handful countries require quarantine. Rabies-free nations or islands generally impose the quarantine period.
Popular countries that require may quarantine include:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
Depending on the origin of the country, rabies-free nations may deny entry if you enter from a nation with high incidents of rabies.
Double check which zone your current country resides in before traveling. You may be surprised to learn that your country of origin has a high risk of rabies.
If the origin country is high risk for rabies, the destination may require a titer test from a certified location. Then, you must wait three months after the results come back before permission to travel
Required Documents to Fly Internationally with a Dog
Again, the requirements vary among each country, so check ahead of time. Many, but not all countries require the following:
- ISO microchip (which is a different frequency than the chips used in the United States)
- Recent rabies vaccination (most countries do not recognize the 3-year vaccine like in the US, we’ve found that most countries require annual shots, a titer test may also be accepted)
- Blood titer test in some cases (if coming from a high risk rabies country)
- Tick and tapeworm treatments administered a certain number of hours prior to entry (Norway required this, but most countries do not require this)
- Health certificates administered by your veterinarian no more than 10 days prior to entry
- Government export paperwork from the country of origin (Department of Agriculture or USDA equivalent)
- Pet Passport, if available otherwise paper certificates/documentation like rabies shot.
This all sounds like a lot, and initially it is, but once you’ve gone through the process once, you have most of what you need to take your pup to other countries.
The most important thing to remember is to look ahead at where you will be traveling and understand the entry requirements for each individual country.
Finding Specific Pet Import Requirements by Country
Pet Travel is a great place to start to find out requirements, but always supplement the information by going to the destination country’s pet import policies and emailing the right contacts.
Occasionally, we cannot find anyone to email and we assume the information on the destination government website is correct.
If you’re in the US, go to the USDA APHIS – Pet Travel page and select your destination travel country. This has the most information on what you’ll need to get your export papers approved.
For example, if you’re traveling to Germany, you’ll be able to select the country and view the EU Pet Requirements and download the forms.
Some countries will give you a phone and fax number to call and fax your notice of entry to the airport veterinarians who will check your dog’s credentials after the flight. Make this phone call 24 hours before you land.
The majority of the time we have had no contact before our arrival and it really depends on the destination. Norway, for example was particularly specific on their rules of calling in advance.
Booking Your Flight
Call your airline before booking your flight to understand their rules about pets and ensure that your dog will be allowed on that particular leg.
Airlines can only accommodate a few animals per flight, so you want to get your request in early.
Many airlines require a minimum three-hour layover for those traveling with dogs as cargo. Be sure to check your individual airline’s rules about dogs and layovers.
During the layover, the staff sometimes take the animals to a dog area where they are walked, fed, given water, and go to the bathroom in between flights. Confirm this is the case with your airline (I can confirm that Lufthansa offers this service).
Once you’ve booked your flight, call again and make sure they know that you will be bringing a dog. You can never call them too often.
Before booking your flight for your large dog who will be flying in cargo, be sure to ask these 14 questions.
Where do Dogs go to the Bathroom on Planes?
To best prevent an accident during a flight, limit your dog’s water intake prior to the flight (don’t deny them water, but don’t allow them to have a ton a few hours before departure). Make sure that they go potty as close to departure time as possible.
If your pet is flying in cabin, you may not allow them to relieve themselves on the plane. You will have to wait until the layover or arrival. Most airports in the US now have pet relief areas, so just check with staff once you exit the gate to inquire the nearest location.
If your dog is flying in cargo, you may want to line the kennel with puppy pads, in case your dog needs to relieve themselves during the flight. I also recommend placing a travel dog bed beneath the puppy pads for additional cushioning in the kennel.
Which Dog Kennel is Needed to Fly Internationally with a Dog?
Airlines have very specific requirements for kennels for flying with a dog. Generally, the kennel or crate size needs to be larger.
Make sure to follow these guidelines exactly. They can refuse your dog if the kennel does not meet their guidelines. Go to your airlines website and find their pet policy.
Make sure to purchase a kennel that is International Air Transport Association (IATA) certified.
It will have the exact rules for flying with your dog. Make sure to go over this a few times before and leading up to your departure. You can and should check with the airline to make sure you have the correct size.
Most airlines require water and feeding bowls attached to the inside of the kennel. I like the MidWest Homes for Pets Snap’y Fit Stainless Steel Food Bowl / Pet Bowl mounted to the inside with wing nuts. This ensures the bowls will stay attached.
When purchasing the kennel, measure your dog according to the IATA sizes and choose the kennel size that best fits your dog.
The kennel sizes run in 4 categories and are standardized based on size. You can find the size needed by using the Guidance for Dimensions of Container at IATA.
Food and Water
Flying on a full stomach might upset your dog, so it is best not to feed your dog more than four hours prior to the flight.
Continue to give your dog water leading up to takeoff, and make sure to give them a walk outside the terminal before heading through security to make sure they’ve eliminated as much as possible.
Checking on Your Dog before, during, and after the Flight
Don’t be afraid to ask the airline staff at the gate to check on the status of your dog. You can also ask during a layover with any attendant from your airline.
Be sure to 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.
Don’t shy away from asking about your dog or cat because you don’t want to come across as a nervous Nancy.
Each airline and airport are different. Sometimes, your dog may come out on the conveyor belt, other times, they will be the last to unload and will come out in a special area. Ask the airline staff what to expect.
Resist the urge to let your dog out until you have cleared customs, airport staff will tell you to just put her back in the kennel.
Your dog will likely be scared, overwhelmed, and disoriented. Avoid giving your dog too much attention and just let them take everything in on their terms.
At customs clearance, 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 stretch those legs!
Here’s some of our favorite gear to make flying easier for your dog⟶
|Kurgo Loft(TM) Travel Dog Bed
|Dexas Snack DuO Dual Bottle and Snack Container
|Simple Solution Large Washable Training and Travel Dog Pad
|Dexas Collapsible Travel Cup