Thinking of taking your dog, cat or hamster on your next overseas trip? There’s a lot to know but don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Read on to be prepared!
BEFORE YOU GO
First things first: your pet must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned (USDA law).
1) Consider the time of year
Ideally you should travel in moderate climate.
If you do intend to travel in cold weather, you may need to obtain an acclimation certificate. Some airlines won’t even allow pet travel in the cargo hold during hot or cold weather.
If you’re traveling in the summertime, book a flight in the early morning or late evening.
2) Pick your airline
You can find regulations of each airline online, but to be absolutely sure, you should call them as they can change. A direct, non-stop flight is your best bet.
3) Choose carry-on or cargo
Generally, if your pet is under 25 lbs you can bring him/her on-board with you. If it’s a big dog, you’ll have to decide if you will send him/her as checked luggage or as cargo.
Make sure when booking your ticket that you call the reservations line and tell them you are bringing a pet. It’s also a good idea to call 24-48 hours to reconfirm.
4) Purchase a pet carrier
Before you spend money on a carrier, double check the allowed dimensions of the airline you are flying with and purchase accordingly. The brands Sherpa, Pet Roll Around and Sturdi are accepted by most airlines.
If you are checking your pet or sending as cargo, make sure to clearly mark your name and address, indicate which side is up, provide food and water dishes accessible from the outside, and indicate in large lettering that a live animal is inside.
5) Have your pet checked and inoculated
Your pet will need to be cleared by a veterinarian before flying. Within 10 days of your trip, get a health certificate. This should be USDA approved. If you are getting your pet micro-chipped (see step 7) make sure to include the chip number on the documentation.
A pet passport is a multi-document, and is required in the European Union. This consists of the EU form 998 (country-specific) and your pet’s inoculation record.
Depending on your destination, you should have your pet inoculated for fleas, ticks, worms, and mosquitoes. In some destinations, this is mandatory. The UK, Norway, and Sweden require blood titer test results and Ticks and Tapeworms (Echinococcus) treatment, which will be part of your pet passport.
6) Check destination country’s regulations and laws
Check the pet immigration rules for the country you’re flying to. You should know that many “dangerous dogs” are banned from entering most countries. You should be able to find out from the country’s Department of Agriculture which breeds these are.
Check quarantine laws, some countries require pets to be quarantined at the airport for some time.
7) ID your pet
Things happen. Airlines misplace luggage. In this worst-case scenario, it’s best to have your pet identified well.
Besides a collar and tag with your contact information, it’s advisable to have your pet micro-chipped, especially for international travel. The information is entered into a database and is priceless for tracking purposes should your pet get lost.
8 ) Get pet insurance
If you’re a pet owner, you know how expensive vet bills can be. Travel brings inherent risks to the health of your animal, so it’s a good idea to purchase some pet travel insurance before you leave. Independent insurance review website Pet Insurance Review picks PetPlan as their first choice.
9) Find a pet-friendly hotel
Before you book your hotel, make sure they welcome pets. This could mean different things to different hotels, from simply allowing them on the premises to offering spa treatment. Know your responsibilities like where your pet is allowed and if your damage deposit is refundable.
10) Ease your pet into traveling
If your pet has mainly been indoors, now might be a good time to get him/her active and social. Take your dog to a dog park and for car rides of differing distances. If you’re planning on carrying your dog or cat on-board, get him used to the carrier by placing him inside for varying amounts of time and placing him at your feet.
11) Pack for your pet
Accidents can happen on the plane so make sure you’re prepared with towels and wet wipes should your pet pee. It’s also a good idea to bring a portable water bottle with fold-down water reservoir. The airline staff can take care of re-filling it. If you don’t want to give your pet too much water, you can dip your fingers in water and let him/her lick it to stay hydrated.
12) Feed your pet
The USDA requires food and water be offered within four hours of flight. Do not overfeed him, a full stomach is not good for your pet whilst traveling. When checking in you will have to certify with your signature the time of last feeding.
13) Exercise your pet
If your pet is going to sit in a carrier for an extended amount of time, you’ll want to make sure he/she gets enough exercise and expends some energy. Take her for a run or, if you’re traveling with a cat, play with him/her with some toys.
14) Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare
If your pet is traveling as cargo, you will have to go to an air freight terminal which is separate from the departure terminal. Besides, it’s always good to get there early. Less stress!
DURING THE FLIGHT
15) Don’t feed your pet during the flight if possible
The last thing you want to be dealing with is doggy poop!
16) Don’t remove your pet from the carrier
You will be asked straight away to put Fido back in. Make sure he/she has a toy; your pet might be so preoccupied they won’t even know they’re on a plane!
17) On sedation
It’s generally advisable not to sedate/tranquilize your pet during the flight as the effects at high altitudes and stressful situations are not predictable. If you are concerned, make sure you speak to your veterinarian before traveling and act on their advice.
ONCE YOU’VE LANDED
18) Have all your papers handy
To avoid delays, ensure you have your “pet passport” to hand and ready to give to the customs agent.
19) Exercise and bathroom time
As soon as possible, once you’ve landed, leash your dog and take him out of the carrier. Take him outside to do his business if necessary.
If you’re traveling with a cat, you may want to set up a portable kitty litter box in a quiet part of the airport.
20) Establish routine
The best way to address the shock your pet may experience upon arriving at a new destination is to establish a routine so they know what to expect. Any stress they are exhibiting should dissipate after a short time enabling you and your pet to have a great vacation together!
Main image: Francisco-PortoPortugal
[Sources: pettravel.com, foxnomad.com, pettravel.com, howtotravelwithpets.com].