How to Bring Your Pets Along on International Travel

Have you ever had the opportunity to live abroad? Have you dreamed of bringing your furry pets along with you? International travel with your pets can sound intimidating, but it’s not impossible!

The first thing you should know is that every country is different with it’s requirements for incoming animals. The requirements also differ for dogs, cats, birds and other types of pets; some animals aren’t even considered “pets” in other countries. For the purposes of this article, we will explore the general requirements for various countries when transporting cats and dogs from USA to a foreign country. 

Before traveling:

So you’ve decided to bring your pet on an adventure, where do you start? Begin by looking up your destination country’s requirements for importing non-commercial animals. A great place to start is the USDA website for pet travel. You can simply input the country you are traveling to, and they will list the requirements there, along with links to paperwork, country specific sites for information and reservations. 

Here are some of the typical requirements that you will need to obtain for your pets:

  1. Complete medical record for your animal INCLUDING their first ever rabies vaccine, subsequent vaccines, and medications needed. The more medical information you have documented for your animals, the better prepared they will be for traveling to another country.
  2. Because rabies is still prevalent in the United States, all animals coming from USA must have a current rabies vaccination. Your destination country may not have a risk of rabies, and will require your pet is prevented from spreading it. 
  3. Your pet must have an ISO compliant microchip inserted prior to the pet’s first rabies vaccine. ISO compliant microchips usually are 15 digits long, and usually begin with the numbers 11784 or 11785. Home Again microchips are ISO compliant. Not sure if your pet is microchipped? Your veterinarian can scan your pet and let you know, so feel free to ask them! While rare, microchips can go bad or move around in your animal’s body, so it is good to have your veterinarian check anyway to make sure everything is working properly. If you pet was microchipped AFTER their first rabies vaccine, you will need to show proof of the next rabies vaccination that occurred after the micro chipping. Microchip isn’t ISO compliant?  Sadly, the only solution for this is giving them a second microchip that is ISO compliant, and a subsequent rabies vaccine.
  4. Almost every country will require a Health Certificate for your pet. This must be filled out by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian who determines that your pet is healthy, free of contagious disease or infection, and capable of travel. Your regular veterinarian may not be accredited by the USDA, but you can ask with your veterinarian or see if another doctor in that practice is accredited. If not, check on the UDSA APHIS website for more information on finding an UDSA accredited veterinarian near you. 
  5. Once you have all the above items, and a completed Health Certificate form, you will need to get the health certificate approved at a local USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Office. This office just needs to verify the paperwork that you’ve received to help validate their readiness to travel. You pay a small fee, they stamp your paperwork, and bring it along with your pet when they travel. 

TIP: make copies of ALL the paperwork you bring for your animal. Some paperwork may be taken by customs, some may need to be attached to the crate, and you will always want to keep a copy for yourself in case of issues. 

A note about EU Pet Passports: Are you planning to travel between multiple countries in the EU with your pet, or plan to make multiple trips to the EU at various times? Than an EU Pet Passport might be worth looking into! The EU Pet Passport contains the necessary information for traveling pets, such as owner information, rabies vaccine records, microchip number and other medical information. By having this, you can cut down on a lot of the mess of veterinary appointments, country specific health certificates and APHIS endorsement every time that they travel in the EU. But you can only receive this passport once your pet is in Europe. Once there, you can visit an accredited European veterinarian and they can help you obtain one. For more information, check the USDA APHIS website or this helpful Blog from the Points Guy. 

Along with the items above, here are other requirements that some countries require:

  1. Countries like Thailand and Australia require that you apply for an Import Permit for your pet prior to arrival. Similar to us humans applying for a visa, it just lets the country know your travel plans and where the pet will be in the country. For most countries, it appears this can be done online by submitting the required documents. Other countries, such as China, require that you just register the pet with local authorities upon arrival into the country. 
  2. Along with the rabies vaccine, some countries require a Rabies Antibody Titer blood test as well. This test shows how your pet’s immune system responds to the rabies virus to prove that they will not spread the disease. The test can only be done at an approved testing center, so be sure to check with the country about which sites are approved. 
  3. Another requirement for some countries is parasite treatment that is usually administered a few days before departure, and sometimes again after they arrive to their destination. Again, this is to ensure that parasites don’t spread from country to country, and that your pet is healthy when they arrive. These are usually routine treatments that pets would get even at home. 
  4. As much as we hate it, some countries do require mandatory quarantine of our pets. Countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan all require quarantine, ranging from 10 days to 6 months, depending on the health of the animal and paperwork provided. Countries like United Kingdom will waive the need for quarantine, but pets can be quarantined for missing documents or apparent health issues. Be aware that some of these quarantines need to be reserved prior to leaving the USA! Just like a hotel reservation, they will need to know when you are arriving to the country so that they can ensure room in quarantine for your pets. Also, be sure the pet arrives into the city where they will be quarantined! Not all cities/airports/seaports have a quarantine station, so you will need to come into the country through the same port as the quarantine station that you booked.

During travel:

That leads us to the big day – the day you actually travel with your pets! As is can be with us, traveling can be exciting but also stressful. Even for well-seasoned traveling pets, air travel or extended travel can cause anxiety, fear and sometimes illness. 

Here are some items to consider when preparing your pets for the day of travel:

  1. Most international travel will be through flying, so be sure to check with the airline about their requirements for transporting animals. Unless you have a registered support animal, some airlines won’t even consider taking animals on-board. Before booking your flights, see what airlines will allow pets on international flights. Some airlines that do offer animals on international flights are AirEuropa, Iberian Airlines, Air France and TAP Portugal. If you are able to take another mode of transportation (train or boat), make sure you still check with the company to see what their pet requirements are. 
  2. Be sure to get a carrier that not only fits for your animal, but that is approved for your mode of transportation. Airlines will have their own requirements for the size of carrier, so make sure that you find something they will approve. Also, leave the carrier out in your home prior to departure so your pet can get acclimated to it. You want it to be a place they will feel safe when they travel, so allow them a chance to roam, sleep, eat and get comfortable in their carrier. 
  3. Speaking of carriers, when your pet is going into the cargo space, they will need some extra gear to go with their crate. The base of the crate should be covered with pet pads in case they need to use the bathroom. Water and food dishes should be secured to the door with only small amounts inside. You can tape a water bottle and extra food outside the crate so that if a worker notices they need more, they can give it to them. Another good idea is to attach a funnel to the outside to help get the water and food safely into the crate without messes. Lastly, make sure that a copy of all the necessary paperwork is placed in a waterproof, sealed folder outside the crate! In case of any emergencies, they will still know who the animal is and will have their records. For cats or small dogs that ride in the aircraft with you, bring some small dishes for food, bathroom items (litter box, poop bags, etc.), maybe a small toy or lovey so they feel more comfortable. 
  4. If you are flying, check for pet relief areas within the airports you plan to visit. When they need to go, know the places where they will be able to pee without making a mess. Most airports will have multiple spots – some indoors, some outdoors, and some with an attached bar for their human owners!

After arriving to your destination:

You and your pet made it to your destination! Congratulations! You’re almost set to start your adventure abroad!

Here are the last few tips to get you and your furry friend settled into your new country:

  1. How will you get you, your luggage and your pet to your accommodations? Some buses, taxis, metros don’t allow pets onboard. If you have a smaller dog or cat, it’s usually not a problem as long as they stay in the crate. For larger animals, or multiple pets, consider booking a Pet Taxi or Pet Transportation services to pick you up at the airport! You can trust that you and your pet will have a secure, safe and pre-arranged ride to your home without stress and hassle!
  2. Once you arrive at your accommodations/new home, add little pieces of their old home to help your pet adjust. You can bring a toy or two from home to reintroduce into your new place. You can leave out the crates that, hopefully, they feel safe in for the first few days so they have a comfortable place to retreat to. Any little thing you can do to make them happy in their new home will help their transition in the long run. 

It won’t be long before you and your fur-babies are enjoying your new international home! Bon Voyage!

Matthew & Stephanie

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