Flying with a pet? Tips for safe airplane travels with your furry one

Pets are family and family must not be left behind, even if you move country. Luckily today most airlines accept transporting pets and if you have to leave the country for good or plan to spend a long period of time abroad, you can make it happen. Like with most things in life, good preparation is everything. To help you (and to hopefully stop reading “giving away because we travel” adoption ads) we compiled a to-do list for traveling with your fur companion:

1. Research your destination country’s pet import requirements

Most countries require a passport that shows that the animal is microchipped and has received a rabies vaccine. If the rabies vaccine has been done before the microchip, you have to refresh it, even if it’s still valid.

Traveling to the EU 

If you are entering the EU from a high rabies country like Lebanon, then you must wait for 30 days after the rabies vaccination (do not count the day of veterinary visit) before getting your dog or cat a rabies titer test. The sample must be sent overnight in a refrigerated blood pack to an approved laboratory for processing. Your vet will take care of that and it will take about a week. Assuming your pet’s antibody levels are at least 0.5 IU/ml, then your pet can enter the EU without quarantine 90 days after the day the blood was taken for the test. You’ll also need a health certificate by your vet and then the airport vet.

Good news is that the EU will consider your pet’s titer test valid for the life of your pet as long as its rabies vaccination does not expire.

Traveling to the UK, Ireland, Norway, Finland Malta

For these countries your pet will additionally need a tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed veterinarian between one and five days of entering those countries.

Traveling to the US & Canada

For the US your pet needs a microchip and the rabies vaccine but not a titer test. You must wait for 30 days after the vaccine and also bring a health certificate by your vet and the airport vet with you.

Traveling to UAE

The entry of pets to the UAE requires a microchip, a rabies vaccine and an import permit from the Ministry of Environment and Water. For this, you will need a vaccination card or certificate for each pet dog or cat, your passport copy and a microchip number clearly marked on the vaccine book or microchip certificate.

Traveling to the UK

To travel to the UK, your pet needs a microchip, a rabies vaccine, a titer test (30 days after the vaccine) and a tapeworm treatment (5 days before you travel). After everything is done,  your vet will must complete a Model Third Country Official Veterinary Certificate which you can download here. No other certificate will be accepted. You must also sign a declaration stating that you do not intend to sell or transfer ownership of the animal. Download the declaration form here.

Unfortunately traveling with your furry ones isn’t exactly cheap.

2. Check travel routes and airlines

It is always more stressful for a pet to be transferred to another plane. If possible, select an airline that offers a non-stop route to your destination. Before booking a ticket online, make sure to call the airline to make sure they allow pets on that specific flight. Make a reservation. If there is a layover, research the airport well and avoid using two different airlines (likely you’ll have to check your pet out and in again which is very stressful). If possible, don’t choose a route with a layover longer than two hours.

3. Buy the right crate

Regardless of your pet flying in-cabin or in the cargo hold, make sure to buy a quality product and always double check the regulations of the airline you are using.

For small dogs and cats, the in-cabin regulations usually allow hard-sided crates to be 17.5″L x 12″W x 7.5″H (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm) and soft-sided crates to be 18″L x 11″W x 11″H (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm)

If your pet flies Cargo, make sure to get a sturdy, well built pet crate and acclimate them to it. This will be your pet’s home on their journey, their safe place. You want to be sure that the crate is the right size and that it is constructed securely. This is not the time to cut corners; get the best crate you can afford for your own piece of mind and for the safety of your pet.

Airline compliance is extremely important. Make sure you check them before buying the travel crate. You can find a list of the usual requirements here.

Please note that cargo rates are based on weight (this is the primary reason it costs more for large dogs to travel), and also not all airplanes are equipped to handle the largest crates. Be sure to check with the airline you’ll be using to find out everything you need to know before you book your flight

4. Prepare your pet

As soon as you know you’re moving, buy your pet’s travel crate. Get them used to it slowly by first just placing the bottom part in your house. You can put their bed inside, place toys in there, feed them in there or encourage them with treats. The message is: This is a safe place, good things happen in here. When your pet is used to the bottom, add the top. When that works out as well, start closing the door for short periods of time. Take a test ride with the crate in your car, but make sure it’s to a happy place and not the vet. Hopefully, by the time of your trip, your pet will be super relaxed inside the crate.

5. The day before the flight

Don’t feed your pet 10 hours before the flight and take away water bowl one or two hours before departure. This is to avoid accidents in the plane that could leave your furry one uncomfortable.

If you have a dog, go for a long and exhausting walk before your flight. A tired pup will be less anxious and hopefully sleep deeply. Exercise your cat as well before your trip with a long play session.

Most importantly, try to remain calm. We know it is stressful and you are terribly worried but pets can sense your stress and anxiety and become unwell themselves. Best of luck!

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