Dogs are part of the family and may need to go with you when you travel overseas. That could be for a well-deserved break or for something more permanent. Whatever the occasion, there are likely to be numerous hurdles to overcome.
As with most things in life, success will depend on the preparation you put in beforehand. Attention to detail will also help to ensure a smooth-running trip. Read on for your guide to international travel with a dog.
Important Considerations Before You Travel
There are plenty of dependencies at play when it comes to travel. The key factors for dogs are these:
- Mode of transport, such as plane, train or ship, along with the distance
- Adequate liability and veterinary insurance
- Climate, weather and temperature at the time of year when traveling
- Required veterinary certificates, your dog’s health and any essential medication
- Practical preparation from calming psychological techniques to hydration
Getting to the Destination
It might sound obvious but it all starts with choosing how your dog is going to travel. Cost may clearly be a factor but, If you want your dog to travel by air, you need to establish a few facts first.
Rules vary greatly between airlines even on the same routes so always check things out beforehand directly with the carrier.
Depending on the size of your dog and the origin and destination of your journey, some airlines may allow you to travel with your dog in the cabin. You will typically need to place your dog in a specialist travel carrier that fits under the seat in front of you.
It may also be possible to take a dog on board if they are a guide dog or provide you with emotional support. Again, there are no hard and fast rules, so check with your airline beforehand.
What Happens When Dogs Travel in the Hold of a Plane
If your dog is too large for the cabin, they will have to travel separately in the hold of the aircraft. Some airlines now refuse to carry certain dogs at all on long flights. This often applies to those breeds that are prone to breathing difficulties such as French bulldogs.
Some companies may only transport dogs at certain times of the year to avoid extreme outdoor temperatures. This is to mitigate the danger of animals sitting in confined spaces on the airport tarmac for excessive periods when it’s very hot or cold outside.
Other airlines will allow you to send your dog as cargo. In these instances, the carrier will control the environment – particularly in terms of temperature and pressurization – throughout the entire journey.
Some airlines may make it possible to travel on the same plane as your dog, even when your pet travels in the hold as cargo. Others may not be able to guarantee this.
If an airline allows your dog to travel in the hold, it will ensure that the controlled pressure and temperature are appropriate for pets during the flight.
What Happens at the Airport
If your dog isn’t used to a leash or harness, practice using one with your pet well in advance. Most airports have either outdoor or indoor areas where you can be with your dog but you will need to keep them on a leash.
Your airline may also require you to take your dog to a specialist center in the airport to begin their journey. When your dog travels in the hold, you will need to provide a carrier for your dog that meets the approval of the airline.
Here’s a quick checklist you can use before the trip:
- An adequate, airline-approved crate that your dog can stand and turn around in
- Find out if your airline sells their own sturdy dog carriers
- If possible, get your dog used to the dog-carrier before they travel
- Place disposable potty pads on the base of the crate or carrier
- Ensure water’s available and that it’s possible to fill bowls from outside the crate
Traveling by Ferry, Ship or With a Courier
Depending on the length of the trip, some ferries will have dog-friendly cabins. If they allow pets on board, most companies will have special areas where it’s possible to take dogs for essential comfort breaks.
For many owners, traveling together with their pets may be impossible. They may also prefer not to have their dogs travel separately by plane. If so and if logistics allow, it may be possible to send the dog to their destination by road with a specialist courier.
Many companies will have cameras onboard their vehicles so that owners can follow the progress of the journey. Couriers will take time out to reassure owners with live on-camera updates that show the dog is happy and getting sufficient exercise.
International Health Certificate Requirements for Dogs
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all certificate that applies to every destination. However, it is highly likely that you will need some kind of pet passport or certificate to travel from one country to another.
You must make sure that your dog has all the necessary documents. Bear in mind this may include extra paperwork for any potential layovers in other countries en route.
Check all the government websites of the countries your dog will be traveling to and through. You should consult with your vet about your dog’s fitness and health to ensure it’s safe for them to travel.
For example, you may live in a country where heartworm disease is not prevalent. Your dog may need to begin a course of preventative treatment depending on where they are traveling to. Check for the following:
- Essential vaccinations (including rabies)
- Blood tests
- Deworming and flea treatments
- The necessary microchipping
- Official paperwork and documents
Your vet will be able to advise you about whether your dog needs any anti-anxiety and/or nausea medication for their travels. They may recommend you try these out in advance to ensure they have the desired effect at the recommended dose.
Ask your vet for tips about how to feed your dog and keep them hydrated during their travels.
What to Do on the Day of Travel
Always have a familiar blanket or bed in the carrier that your dog is going to travel in. When prescribed, give your dog nausea and anxiety medication at least half an hour before you leave the home.
This is because pets will pick up on what might be about to happen if there are suitcases loaded into a car, for example. These kinds of scenarios can set off feelings of anxiety.
Ensure your dog’s carrier has legibly written or printed labels attached to it. Here is a quick on-the-day pet travel checklist:
- Important pet documents and certificates
- A leash, harness and toys
- Correctly labeled prescription medications in their original containers
- Specialist calming wipes and/or sprays
- Several blankets (extras in case of accidents)
- Disposable potty pads, gloves, and a few zippable bags
- Food and treats: enough for the length of your trip plus 1 day
- A travel water bottle
- Collapsible bowls for water and food
Seek Expert Advice Before International Travel With a Dog
Still looking for answers about international travel with a dog? Schedule an instant video consultation with our qualified veterinarians and get tailored advice from the comfort of your home – today.
Immediate online consultations are available with a qualified vet. They can advise you on everything from vaccines to anti-nausea medication. We can also offer you further peace of mind with our straightforward, hassle-free, pet insurance.