I recently moved overseas and took my dog with me. Travelling with a dog was a process that I never thought could be so confusing. Sending your furry loved one on a trip can be scary, especially if they are flying cargo and you cannot be with them. Don’t worry, though. Even though this process may stress you out, let me tell you that your dog will be just fine. If your dog doesn’t have a problem with being in a crate, once they are all set, they will be calm and cosy.

In my situation, I didn’t even travel on the same day with my dog. I was super upset to leave him at the Delta Cargo facility and I wept a little :(. When I went to pick him up a few weeks later in Ulan Bator he was just chilling in his crate, with not a care in the world. That’s how he rolls.

This post will be useful for you if you have to ship your dog as cargo. I have no experience travelling with a dog in the main cabin, but I can imagine some of the points I will talk about still apply. A friend of mine encouraged me to write about my experience to help other people through this process. So here are the steps I had to take to travel with my dog.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a professional pet mover nor do I work at an airport. All the information I give in this post is solely based on my particular experience. Your situation will most certainly be different than mine. However, I think this post will be beneficial for any traveller with pets. Be aware that travel regulations change all the time and without warning, therefore ask the professionals involved in this process, such as vets and airport personnel.

At the end of this post, there are several links to websites you can visit to get the most updated information on pet travel in the US.

1. SHIPPING: DO I USE A COMPANY OR NOT?

Find out whether you can ship your dog by yourself or if you need to hire a company. This is the first thing you need to do. When I started to do research, I found that Delta Cargo would not allow individuals to manage their international pet relocation. Hence, I had to get a professional pet shipper.

If you use a professional pet shipper they will do the hard thinking for you. They will lay out all the steps that you need to take before you ship your dog, and you won’t need to read this post.

If you are doing the move by yourself, then keep on reading!


2. KNOW YOUR ROUTE

Airlines:

Find out:

  • which airlines fly to your final destination,
  • where the layovers take place,
  • if they are operated by some other airline in some portion of the way,
  • what type of aircraft will be used on each leg

You need to know this for two reasons:

  • different countries and different airlines may have different requirements for your dog.
  • some aeroplanes cannot fit kennels in the cabin or in the cargo compatment area, for example , Boeing 737.

Best time to fly:

To the best of my knowledge, cargo areas have temperature control. But depending on the weather throughout the flying route, there might be restricted periods in which live animals may not travel. This can be either because it is too hot or too cold. Consider travelling during shoulder seasons if you can plan that far ahead.

Some airlines will let your pet travel if temperatures fluctuate between 20 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit provided you have a certificate of acclimation from the vet.


3. GETTING YOUR PET READY

Dog’s Health:

Your dog has to pass a health test and have all required immunizations and treatments. Not only as per final destination requirements but also for all the other countries where your pet will enter (layovers). Please, research each of the countries or states where your pet will be, then take him or her to the vet. Once you get an international health certification from the vet, you will have to send it to a VS Endorsement Office. This is a little bit of a pain because the certification is only valid for 30 days, so you cannot do it way in advance. More info on one of the links below.

Example: my dog travelled from Utah to San Francisco, from San Francisco to Frankfurt, from Frankfurt to Moscow and from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. He had to meet all the health and vaccination requirements for California, Germany, Russia and Mongolia.

This is the international health certification for your dog

Documentation related to dog’s health:

Documentation will be supervised by customs officers at each airport. Make sure that this information is inside a plastic sheet attached to the top of the crate with clear packing tape.

You need:

  • International health certificate – must be signed by USDA accredited vet and must be proper signature, no stamps allowed.
  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • Inoculation records

Dog information sheet

A sheet with physical information about your dog including a photo (you can be in the photo to add proof of ownership during the trip). You can also add extra information about origin, destination and vet info. (This information goes in a sticker that you will have to put on top of the crate, but I would add an extra sheet just in case.)


4. THE CRATE

Crate specifications:

the crate was not tall enough for Drogo

Make sure you comply with IATA specifications in regards to size, ventilation and proper labelling of the crate. In short:

  • Your pet must have enough room to stand, sit and lay down comfortably.
  • The crate must have ventilation on the four lateral sides.
  • You have to use metal nuts and bolts to put together the crate.
  • If your dog is very tall, you may have to buy an extension kit to make the crate taller.
  • You have to label the crate with “Live animal” and arrow stickers on all sides of the crate.

Here is the link to a fantastic 12 page PDF with all the IATA requirements in regards to pet containers.

Labelling:

It is very important that people know they are dealing with a live animal. The link above also talked about labelling, but pretty much you have to have:

  • 1 shipping label
  • Green animals label (preferably with pictures) – 2 minimum
  • red arrow labels pointing upward – 2 minimum
  • live animal strip labels – 2 minimum
  • 1 Hanging door tag

Preparing the crate inside:

Food and drink:

Crate has to have 2 plastic containers, one for water, and one for food. You can’t add water to the containers because it will spill. Instead, fill with water 3/4 of one of the containers (or both if it’s an international flight and you might think your dog will need more water) and freeze it. You can do this 2 days before the flight. You can also add ice cubes instead, but I prefer the other method. Alternatively, you can use a pet water bottle with a drinking tube (like te ones you see in mice cages). Your plastic containers have to have round edges and be accessible from the outside. To avoid the containers from detaching, use zip ties.

You cannot leave any food inside the containers. Put half the portions of what your dog might normally eat into sealed plastic bags. Then, attach it at the top of the crate with clear, concise instructions on how to feed. It is best to have each portion bagged separately. For example, you are doing 2 layovers in Atlanta and in Madrid. You would pack food for the layover in Atlanta in one bag, and food for the layover in Madrid in another one.

Some airlines are not required to feed your pup, for example Korean Air. Still pack the food, just in case. And don’t worry, as long as your dog is hydrated, it’s okay if they don’t eat a lot during the trip. If you want to make sure, ask your vet.

Potty:

The floor of the crate has to have some sort of padding to absorb any urine. You can buy absorbent pads or add a lot of old newspaper sheets.

Familiar scent:

One week or two prior to the trip, wear an old t-shirt or blanket. The day of the flight, leave the item in the crate with your dog so that they will carry your scent with them during the flight.

Your dog will not be supervised so don’t add any other objects in the crate, like soft toys and chew toys.


5. PREPARE YOUR DOG FOR THE TRIP

These are a few tips and pieces of advice to prepare your dog for the upcoming trip:

  • Take your dog for car drives inside the crate to simulate the trip, go into a car washing tunnel to simulate the rumbling of an aeroplane.
  • The day before travel, only give your dog half of their meal to reduce gastro distress and also to avoid defecation.
  • Don’t feed on the day of the trip.
  • Don’t give tranquillizers, they are discouraged by the American Veterinary Medical Association. You can use D.A.P collars instead, which release calming pheromones.
  • Your dog will be fine, you are probably more anxious than your dog will be.
  • You cannot send extra accessories with your dog, like a leash, toys…  even if they are securely attached to the top of the crate.
  • Customs may discard all bedding materials, so make sure you don’t lend your cashmere blanket to your dog.

This is it, please comment below if you have any extra info or tips that I have missed and that you would want to share.

Here are a few links to official sites that will help you in your research.

International Pet and Animal Association website

International Air Transport Association – info on pet travel

US Department of agriculture – here you will find information in regards to APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Offices

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