How to Prepare Your Dog for International Travel

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How to Prepare Your Dog for International Travel

Getting ready for an international trip is exciting, but it can also be a busy and stressful time if you’re planning to take your dog along. Preparing your dog for the trip and planning ahead is essential to decrease their anxiety and make sure you have everything you need. Keep reading for important doggy travel tips that will save you time and minimize your pup’s stress.

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Check with the Airlines

Check with the airline well in advance to find out if your dog can travel under the seat in front of you on the flight. Airlines have strict size and weight guidelines for pets allowed to fly in the cabin. Make your flight reservations for you and your pet as early as possible since airlines often restrict the number of pets allowed to fly in the cabin. If possible, book non-stop flights with as few transfers and shorter layovers as possible. This will minimize stress for you and your dog. The airline can direct you regarding specific guidelines for pet carrier dimensions and size as well as required health records including vaccinations, health certificates, and more.

For large pets that cannot travel in the cabin, options include checked luggage or manifest cargo. Avoid flying your pet as “checked luggage” when ground temperatures fall below 40°F (4°C) or above 80°F (21°C). Ambient temperatures tend to be controlled in holding areas; however, luggage transport vehicles are exposed to the weather. Manifest cargo transport vehicles are handled by trained personnel and temperatures are controlled.

For connecting flights, be sure to check with all airlines as they may have different requirements. You may have to make separate reservations on the connecting flights, especially if flying different airlines.

Ask your airline about their baggage liability policy, particularly concerning your dog. General baggage liability coverage will, in some cases, include your pet. Find out the monetary liability limits and consider purchasing additional liability insurance.

Many airports offer special pet areas which are located inside the security area. Research before your trip to know which airports offer these and where they’re located. They can be indoor or outdoor. In these areas, you can allow your dog out of their carrier to stretch their legs, offer water, and give any needed medication. Be sure that your dog is secured with their harness and leash if you’re outdoors to prevent them from escaping.

Additional Pet Equipment Needs for Air Travel

Practice with a harness and leash well in advance of your trip. Do this at home using Adaptil (calming pheromones) and treats as positive reinforcement, especially if your dog has never worn a harness or walked on a leash. Begin by placing an adjustable harness on your dog, making sure it’s snug but comfortable. Once your dog accepts the harness, attach the leash and allow your dog to walk around the house under supervision with the leash trailing behind so they get familiar with it.

Use the following guidelines to make your best friend’s trip as comfortable as possible:

  • Make sure to use an “airline-approved” crate. It should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around easily.
  • The crate should be sturdy with strong, with waterproof walls and floor.
  • Place disposable potty pads in the bottom of the crate.
  • Be sure the carrier has adequate ventilation on at least 3 sides, featuring holes and slits.
  • The carrier should have sturdy handles for baggage personnel to use.
  • The carrier must have an attached water bowl that can be accessed from the outside so that water can be provided when necessary.
  • Place the pet carrier in your living space as far in advance as possible of your travel date so your dog becomes familiar with it. Entice your dog to sleep or feel safe in the carrier by placing treats, food, a familiar bed or blanket, toys, and spray with Adaptil pheromone.
  • Check with your airline and local pet stores or online for “airline-approved” crates or kennels.
  • For pets allowed in the cabin, consider a soft-sided pet carrier so that it will more easily fit under the seat space.
  • Check with your airline for specific requirements regarding crates, kennels, and pet carriers before purchasing.

International Health Certificate Requirements for Dogs

Travel to a foreign country often requires providing an international health certificate signed by a government-approved veterinarian or other government official. Specific requirements for travel with a dog vary by country, within North America, and to other continents. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to find out what the legal requirements are to travel from the US to a different country. It is the pet owner’s responsibility that they provide all the necessary documents and requirements for the airline and the destination country. NOTE that this includes any requirements for layovers in other countries.

Consequences of not following a country’s requirements can result in confiscation of your dog, quarantine of your dog for an extended time, costly fines, or even euthanasia.

Double-check, triple-check, and confirm that you have all the necessary documents and appointments scheduled as soon as you know that you’ll be traveling outside the US with your dog. The process takes time and is challenging, with lots of official forms to fill out.

Contact the consulate’s office or search the government website for the destination (and layover) country to find out the specific legal requirements necessary to bring your dog. Certain countries also have animal quarantine requirements which means your dog will need to be confined in a special area for a predetermined amount of time before being allowed into the country of destination.

Be sure to check the requirements for your return trip as well. They may be different, often requiring updated veterinary information, new forms, and documents.

A helpful starting point is to check travel out recommendations on the USDA APHIS Pet Travel website!

Schedule an Appointment with Your Vet

International travel regulations have strict vaccination requirements including Rabies vaccination. Also, your dog will need certification of deworming, microchip or other permanent identification, blood tests, and an exam from a licensed vet declaring your dog is healthy and free of contagious diseases or parasites. Plan ahead! It can take time to get test results as well as necessary documents from your vet.

Dog breeds with short faces such as Pekingese, English and French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs are at higher risk for difficulty breathing during air travel. This is especially true when the dog is in a pet carrier traveling in the cargo area of the airplane. The risk increases during hot, humid weather. Be sure to talk to your vet about these or other travel safety concerns.

Check that you have enough prescription medication, heartworm, and flea prevention your dog may need for the length of your trip. This includes special or prescription diets.

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are traveling to in order to get accurate information and forms well before your date of travel. Download or print these forms, fill them out, and bring them with you to your appointment with your vet. (Your veterinarian will thank you!)

When scheduling an appointment with your vet, be sure to specify that it’s for an International Health Certificate. International Health Certificates are only valid for a specific number of days; therefore, you will need to schedule the health certificate appointment close to the time of travel so that it will be valid until you reach your destination.

Will my dog need medications for anxiety and nausea?

Ask your vet if anti-anxiety and/or nausea medication are needed for your dog. It may be a good idea to give your dog a dose of the medication ahead of your trip as a “trial dose” to make sure the medication has the desired effect. All pets react differently, and some may be more sedated, or some may become excited. It helps to determine the reaction before the day of travel to minimize stress on your dog and on you. Talk to your vet about any unexpected reactions before changing the dose as directed on the prescription label.

Day of Travel

Talk to your vet about feeding your dog and keeping them dehydrated during the trip.

Be sure to have a familiar blanket or bed in the kennel your dog will travel in. Give your dog their initial nausea and anxiety medication at least 30 minutes before you leave your home. Our pets often know when we’re leaving, especially when we get our suitcases out, so chances are, your dog already knows something is happening on the day of travel. Place your dog in their kennel and cover the kennel with a blanket or towel.

Use Adaptil wipes and spray in the pet carrier before placing them inside. This has been demonstrated to help decrease anxiety in dogs.

Label your pet’s carrier with specific and permanent feeding and identification labels. Make sure they’re easily visible. Include your name, telephone number, flight schedule, destination, and a contact person and telephone number in the city of destination.

Make sure your dog is wearing a harness with identification (pet’s name, your name, and telephone number).

Moving Through the Security Checkpoint with Your Dog

Your dog’s pet carrier must pass through the carry-on luggage x-ray screening machine at the airport without your dog inside, meaning you’ll have to take them out and carry them in your arms through the human screening device. Your dog should be wearing their snug harness with the leash attached. This can be frightening for your dog, so it’s necessary that they have a harness with a leash. Otherwise, they can very quickly jump out of your arms attempting to escape.

  1. Prepare yourself first, placing necessary items in the bin(s) to go through the x-ray machine.
  2. Remove your dog from the carrier with a firm grip on the leash and hold them close in your arms. Send the pet carrier through the x-ray machine.
  3. Once you pass through the screening with your dog, locate the pet carrier and securely place them inside, then gather the rest of your carry-on items.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that dogs traveling in the airline cabin remain inside their pet carriers throughout the duration of the flight.

Arrival at Your Destination

Check directly with your planned accommodations to make sure they allow dogs. Helpful websites include,, and

  • Keep your dog safe in their carrier or inside a closed bathroom.
  • Use the “Do not Disturb” sign and let hotel housekeeping personnel know to wait for your return before entering the room.
  • Upon arrival at your destination, make sure your dog cannot find an escape, perhaps allowing them out of their pet carrier in the bathroom.
  • Ask the hotel receptionist where you can take your dog for a walk outdoors.
  • Offer a small amount of food, tasty treats, and water every hour for the first few hours after arrival to prevent stomach upset.
  • Keep the pet carrier open for a safe place for them to sleep and feel secure.
  • If your dog accidentally gets lost, contact the local animal control.

Quick Reference Pet Travel Checklist

  • Important documents including International Health Certificate and vaccine records
  • Harness and leash
  • Labeled prescription medications in the original container
  • Adaptil wipes and/or spray
  • Cozy bed or blanket and extra in case of accidents
  • Disposable potty pads, wipes, disposable gloves, Ziploc bags
  • Food and treats enough for the length of your trip plus 1 day (in case you get delayed on the way)
  • Travel water bottle (can be filled at a water fountain)
  • Foldable/collapsible bowls for water and food
  • Comforting toys in the pet carrier and extra in case of soiling

Happy Travels!

Plan ahead, fill out required travel documents, and consult with your vet for a seamless trip with your dog. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your trip!

Read more:

What You Need to Know About Vaccinating Your Dog

Deworming Your Dog - Q&A

Crate Training Your Dog or Puppy

Have more questions about traveling with your dog?

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Published: 3/12/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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