Let’s face 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.
I’ll never understand why the sub-two-year-old behind me screaming itself into exorcism can travel for free, yet I have to pay $300 to put my dog in a box and travel at the bottom of a plane. I feel like there should be a simple easy button that requests the airline to “put my dog and me in the seat in the front” without question, but that’s the way it is.
Sora has flown with us on many occasions both domestically and internationally (both in the cargo hold and cabin), and we’ve cataloged our helpful hints into a single blog post. 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), we are unable to provide detailed information for each individual airline, however, the guidelines below should help get you started and cover most of the planning.
Now, if you’re planning to fly with your dog, you have no doubt heard about the stories involving United Airlines and pets, leaving you to wonder whether it is safe to fly with a dog. We think it is safe to bring your pet (both in cabin and as cargo), so long as you do extensive homework beforehand.
Read Flying with a Dog: Is it Safe to learn how to book the safest possible flight for your dog.
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).
Also know that some dog breeds, like pugs and other snub-nosed breed are not permitted to fly due to their body mechanics that cause respiratory failures.
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 we had to place her in 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, for those of us who wish to take their pups along on their travels, only a handful countries require quarantine. Rabies-free nations generally impose the quarantine period. 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.
Double check which zone your current country resides in before traveling. We’ve been surprised to learn a country we are in is considered high risk rabies (like Turkey!). This requires a titer test from a certified location and then you must wait 3 months after the results come back. Essentially, your dog may need a rabies booster.
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)
- 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.
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.
The USDA – APHIS has a great resources page you can use to find more information about what you exactly need for traveling to another country with your dog.
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. 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.
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 takes 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 (we can confirm that Lufthansa offers this service).
If flying cabin, you can let your pet stretch it’s legs while in a layover. When Sora has flown in the cabin with us, we make sure we have puppy pads ready to go so she can pee in the airport with quick clean up.
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.
Once you’ve booked your flight, call again and make sure they know that you will be bringing a dog on your flight. 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.
Which Dog Kennel is Needed for Flying?
Airlines have very specific requirements for kennels for dog travel internationally. Generally, the kennel or crate size needs to be larger.
It depends on the size of your dog.
Make sure to follow these guidelines exactly. They can refuse your dog if the kennel does not meet their guidelines. Lufthansa has a great PDF that specifies 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. We 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.
We also ensured Sora felt safe in her kennel leading up to our flight. We purchased the kennel a week before departure, and fed her inside the kennel so she would associate the kennel with being a positive place. It’s not much different than crate training.
To ensure she doesn’t get uncomfortable if she has pee during the flight, we line the kennel with her favorite dog bed and top it with with puppy pads.
We like the basic no-frills puppy pads (no need to spend a lot of money as they’re all the same) and highly recommend the Kurgo Loft Wander bed or Ruffwear Highlands Bed as they fit well inside the kennel.
As for the kennel itself, make sure to purchase one that is International Air Transport Association (IATA) certified.
These kennels are designed for flying with a dog and met all the criteria. Don’t purchase a random kennel off Craigslist and think you can fly with it. The kennel must meet specific rules to ensure the dog’s safety. We found IATA to be the best place for helpful information on kennels and country-specific rules.
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.
We found that buying one in advance online saved nearly 50% than going to the corner pet store. Just make sure to measure your pet in advance to know the correct size.
Buying Recommendation: Buy a kennel that is well known for quality and make sure it is approved for airlines. We like the following kennels depending on the size of your dog.
After a lot of research, we put together a list of the best dog kennels for flying.
Below are some of the quick highlights.
Extra Large Dogs (> 70 lbs):
This is what we use as it has wheels on the bottom which are fantastic for pushing the kennel through the airport. This is helpful for when it’s impossible to carry the kennel yourself.
Medium/Large Dogs (20 lbs to 70 lbs):
People love this kennel. The easy-to-use color coding system to makes sure you have the right size kennel for your dog. Plus, Petmate is well known for designing high quality kennels.
Small Dogs (< 20 lbs):AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
Inexpensive and highly reviewed by Amazon Basics. This no frills carrier gets the job done and goes light on the wallet.SLEEKO Pet Carrier Under Seat for Dogs and Cats
Fantastic under seat kennel for dogs and cats. It has a side section that zips open to create more space for the furry friend and has a hard case to protect the animal as well.The Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carriers
Nearly 4.5/5 stars an Amazon and people seem to love them. Loads of ventilation and shoulder strap add versatility to this kennel.
Highly rated and fully collapsible for storage. The kennel also has a removable comfort pad, and is expandable on the sides for extra space.
Destructive and Escape Artist Dogs (All sizes):Collapsible, Durable Aluminum Dog Crate from Grain Valley
This is the kennel to use if your dog likes to chew, is anxious nervous, or destructive. It’s made from aluminium in the USA, folds down easily, and is as secure as it gets. It’s not cheap, but is worth it if your dog has a history of difficult travel.
Important, do not forget the cable ties!
You must also have the airline secure the kennel door with cable ties, you cannot do this task. This is a requirement and in our experience, the airport staff insist on having the cable ties done themselves.
These Helping Hand FQ50214 Cable Ties 8' Quick Release 15 are reusable and highly recommended.
Food and Water
Flying on a full stomach might upset your dog, so it is recommended 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 him a walk outside the terminal before heading through security to make sure he’s eliminated as much as possible. We also give Sora a bit of water when the captain announces that we’ll be landing in 20 minutes.
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. We asked before each flight to ensure Sora made it onto the plane. 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.
Part of being a pet owner, is to worry about our fur babies. Don’t shy away from asking about your dog or cat because you don’t want to come across as a nervous Nancy. Especially since international pet travel can be long and stressful.
On one particular flight, Sora came out on the conveyor belt with the rest of the luggage. 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.
Give the dog some calming verbal praise and if your dog is food motivated, a few dog treats through their kennel.
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 do some down dogs!
Buying Recommendation: Have a treat pouch ready to reward your dog positively. We like the Kurgo Go Stuff-It Dog Treat Bag as the carabiner can clip to your pants.
Feeling overwhelmed? Check out our Ultimate Flying with a Dog Guide and Checklist.
As noted above, we’ve launched our first ebook,The Ultimate Flying with a Dog Guide and Checklist for download. This guide is based on the common questions we get from our readers.
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|