Whether for business or pleasure, an international trip can be exciting, but between passports, customs, and connecting flights, it can also be overwhelming. For pet owners wanting to take their furry friend along, international travel becomes even more complicated.
Here are some things you can do to help make an international trip with your pooch as easy as possible.
Research Your Destination’s Rabies Status
Most travelers research their destination for the best activities, hotels, and restaurants before they depart, but dog owners will have to do some extra homework to learn all of the country’s rules and regulations when it comes to entering with a dog—mainly because of rabies. Part of the reason why traveling internationally with your canine companion is often such a hassle is that some countries are determined rabies-free, while others are rabies-controlled. That means if you’re traveling from a rabies-controlled country, like the United States, to a rabies-free country, like Japan, you should plan to spend some extra time at customs because it may not be an easy process.
Visit the Vet
While you’re preparing for your trip, be sure to put a visit to your dog’s veterinarian on the top of your To Do list. Not only will it give you an opportunity to discuss any concerns and ensure that your dog is in proper health to travel, but you will need to get your pet up-to-date on the particular vaccines that will be required for your destination country as well as request copies of your pet’s vaccination records. Also keep in mind that while every country has different regulations, the vast majority are going to require your pet to be implanted with a microchip.
While most Western countries allow dogs, at the very least you will have to provide proof your pet is current on their rabies vaccination. Additionally, keep in mind that if you live in a rabies-controlled country, your pet must be vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days prior to your date of travel. There are some countries that will require even more vaccinations—in countries like France, Spain, and Italy, all pets must be vaccinated for distemper, while Australia requires vaccines including bordetella and canine influenza. It’s always a good idea to research your destination’s vaccine requirements before departing to ensure you don’t run into any issues when you attempt to enter the country.
Know the Rules
Along with vaccines, dog owners should also keep in mind that some countries will require you to take additional steps, including securing import permits. If you’re traveling from a rabies-controlled or high-rabies country, most countries will also require your dog to take a blood titer test.
There are also some breeds that certain countries won’t allow in because they are considered “violent,” even if you have taken all the necessary steps and can present the appropriate paperwork. Although each country will have a varied list of breeds, some of the common banned breeds are Pit Bulls and Rottweilers as well as Dogo Argentinos and Neapolitan or Brazilian Mastiffs.
Have the Correct Paperwork Handy
While all countries will require a veterinary health certificate, the forms themselves can vary. That’s why it’s a good idea to contact the country’s embassy in advance to obtain copies of all necessary veterinary paperwork specific to your destination, and be sure to have your vet fill it out within 10 days of entry. Believe it our not, some countries, like Europe, even have the option of getting their pet a passport. It looks much like a passport for a human, and allows dog owners to travel freely within the country with their pup in tow.
Educate Yourself on Quarantining
The possibility of having to quarantine a pet is enough to prevent most pet owners from attempting an international trip with their dog. But that’s why it’s essential to know the exact requirements for the country you will be visiting; while some countries don’t even allow foreign dogs to enter, others may require a quarantine process that can last up to several months. Dog owners should be aware that countries with stricter regulations have quarantine requirements that can range from seven days to as long as six months, so it’s crucial to educate yourself on the rules in advance.
However, as long as you do your homework, quarantining isn't something the average traveler will have to worry about. Most countries don’t quarantine pets as long as owners have taken all of the necessary steps and secured the proper paperwork in advance.
Make Pet-Friendly Accommodations
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to ensure that you’re flying on a pet-friendly airline, and be sure to call in advance to learn all the steps you’ll need to take to travel overseas with your dog. If you have a small breed, he or she might be allowed to ride with you in the cabin, but otherwise your dog will be riding in the cargo hold. Also keep in mind that some international airports won’t accept domestic animals, so be sure you’re booking a ticket to arrive at an import-friendly airport.
Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, it can sometimes be a challenge to find pet-friendly travel accommodations. You’ll want to confirm in advance if your car rental company allows pets. Also be sure to line up pet-friendly overnight accommodation and understand their policies, as some hotels charge additional fees or have certain rules with regards to the dogs who are welcome to stay, such as weight or size requirements.
Keep Your Dog as Relaxed as Possible
International travel can be stressful for any human, so it’s a pet owner’s responsibility to always consider the mental and physical comfort of their four-legged travel companion. That might mean investing in a cozy, quality carrier for your dog, stocking up on plenty of food, treats, and toys, and doing whatever you can to keep your dog as calm as possible, especially when dealing with the customs process. You'll also want to keep your dog's routine as normal as possible as you're waiting to board your flight and after you've arrived at your destination.