How To Travel Overseas With Your Dog

For your world traveler 🌏

dog in a suitcase

If you need to take your pup overseas, it can be super overwhelming trying to navigate all the rules and regulations of traveling with your dog abroad.

Traveling internationally with your dog means you’ll need to do some research on your destination country as well as your airline to figure out what you need to come prepared with. This step is essential, or else the trip might not go as smoothly as you’d hope.

The Dodo reached out to two veterinarians and a trainer to find out what you need to travel with a dog internationally and how you can prepare your pup for the trip.

Can dogs travel internationally?

The good news is that dogs can travel on international flights. But flying overseas can be hard on pets, so you probably shouldn’t go for it unless totally necessary.

“Do not take pet travel lightly; it can take a lot out of a dog and be very stressful,” Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinarian at FiveBarks, told The Dodo. “Vets generally recommend overseas travel is only considered when your pet is moving permanently rather than going on a week-long vacation.”

International dog travel requirements

There are very specific requirements for traveling with your dog internationally that will depend on your destination country. So you’ll need to do some research to figure out what you need.

“The requirements are generally becoming more and more standardized,” Dr. Jonathan Roberts, a remote veterinarian with Doggie Designer, told The Dodo.

According to Dr. Roberts, most North American, South American and European countries require the following:

  • A microchip with microchip certificate
  • An up-to-date rabies vaccination
  • A rabies titre test certificate
  • A health certificate completed a few days before departing

You can get these items from a vet who has been accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can simply ask your veterinarian if they’re accredited, or you can use this search tool.

“It is usually also important for your pet to have been treated with certain parasite preventatives to minimize the risk of them carrying any internal or external parasites,” Dr. Simon said.

Before leaving for your trip, you can find out the requirements of your destination country by checking with the embassies of your destination country. You’ll likely need to print out a bilingual veterinary health certificate from here to have your vet fill out a few days before the trip.

Breed restrictions abroad

Make sure to read the breed exclusion list of the country you are traveling to.

“Many European countries now ban many breeds, most of which are bull breeds (e.g., bull terriers, pit bulls and staffies),” Dr. Roberts said. “Do not try to get around this problem by lying about your dog’s breed or stating it is a mixed breed. Officials are very strict and will not hesitate to fly the dog straight back home.”

Will I need to quarantine my dog?

Due to rabies regulations, some countries will require that your dog is quarantined for some amount of time (can span from weeks to months!) upon arrival. Not many countries do this, but you should check this when looking up your destination country’s requirements.

If you’re making a round trip flight overseas, keep in mind that dogs coming from countries at high risk of rabies won’t be allowed back into the U.S., so you should avoid traveling with your pup in those locations if you plan on returning.

How to prepare for an international flight with your dog

Here are some things you can do before flying to make sure your pup is as comfortable as possible during his international fight:

Months before the flight

You can mentally prepare your pup for a flight through desensitization, which means exposing him to similar experiences beforehand so he’s less reactive during the actual event.

“For big trips like this that are potentially quite stressful on your pup, I advise as much work familiarizing your pup with the new 'environment' as possible,” Ali Smith, a dog trainer at Rebarkable, told The Dodo.

You can do this by listening to airport and plane noises before the flight or by actually bringing him to an airport as a practice run. Make sure to give him “plenty of praise and rewards for confidence around the potentially startling noises of an airplane,” Smith said.

“Naturally being aware of ... your dog's individual fears or weak points becomes a training opportunity, and reaching out to a local positive-reinforcement-based trainer can be a great decision,” Smith said.

Day of the flight

“Animals should not be fed four hours before flying to minimize vomiting in the crate,” Dr. Roberts said.

You also shouldn’t withhold water prior to flying. In fact, you should put “at least two water bowls” in the crate, Dr. Roberts said. This will ensure your pup stays hydrated and healthy.

Try the Ordermore stainless steel crate dog bowl from Amazon for $9.99

And before walking into the airport, make sure you walk your dog to let him do his business prior to the long flight.

Best dog crates for international travel

“Kennels and crates should be big enough for the dog to sit and stand comfortably, and they need to be able to turn around [inside],” Dr. Roberts said. “The crates need to be lockable and should be in good condition.”

If you’re flying with a large dog internationally, you can have a wood crate created for your dog by dog shipping companies since you might not find a kennel big enough for your pup.

“My first choice for animal travel is custom-made timber crates that are created specifically for your animal’s own size,” Dr. Roberts said. “The company can start producing the crate once they receive measurements of your dog.”

Should I sedate my dog for the flight?

“It will usually not be acceptable for you to sedate your dog as this can be dangerous, resulting in cardiac or respiratory compromise,” Dr. Simon said. “This is especially true in snub-nosed dogs, such as pugs and shih tzus.”

Sedated dogs can’t balance themselves during turbulence and aren’t able to maintain their body temperature (aka thermoregulate), which can be pretty dangerous.

“I do, however, encourage natural calming products to help animals cope with the stress of flying,” Dr. Roberts said. “These include over-the-counter calming tablets or chews and pheromone sprays or collars. I generally advise starting to use the product two days before flying and continuing two days after arriving.”

How much does it cost to fly a dog internationally?

The cost of flying your dog internationally will depend on several factors, including the airline, the size of your pet and your final destination — but you can expect it to be pretty expensive in any case.

“Traveling with your pet is not cheap,” Dr. Simon said. “Expect to spend thousands of dollars on a one-way ticket.”
If your pet’s flying in the cabin, it usually won’t be as expensive, though. “The cost will always be more if your pet is flying in cargo rather than onboard with you,” Dr. Simon said.

What is international dog shipping?

If you don’t plan on traveling with your dog, you can choose to use an international shipping service.

“This is a company that should handle your dog’s travel for you, taking your stress away,” Dr. Simon said. “While convenient, be prepared to pay a lot for this service.”
For some airlines, you might actually be required to ship your dog.

“Some airlines (such as British Airways) don't allow you to book your dog into the hold yourself and will only allow this through third-party services, [known as] their ‘partners,’” Smith said. “This way, they control the quality of the crate and minimize the risks to all involved. Depending on the 'service' you buy, they'll even cover the veterinary health checks, wormers and such before you fly.”

Can service dogs travel internationally?

Service dogs can absolutely travel on international flights. “They have the privilege of traveling in the cabin — because they will be needed there, too,” Smith said.

You’ll need to provide proof that your pup is a service animal, so make sure to bring proper documentation.

Flying with a dog internationally can definitely be overwhelming for you and your pup, but if it needs to be done, make sure to follow these tips to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

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