Considering bringing a furry travel buddy on your next overseas trip? Prepare adequately and prepare early -- the process is longer and more complicated than you might think. Airline rules and specific country rules apply and must be respected. And it goes without saying that your pet health's takes top priority.
The first step when planning overseas travel with a pet is to determine whether the trip is safe for the animal. The Humane Society warns that travel can be especially dangerous for breeds with "Brachycephalic" faces, like pugs and Persian cats. Even though cargo holds are temperature controlled, short-nosed pets flying below are at higher risk of overheating and some airlines may not allow you to check them (the only way a larger pet can fly). Very young or old pets may not be sufficiently healthy to make a long trip safely, either. Check with a veterinarian before making plans to travel with a pet.
Another factor to consider with long-haul flights is the outside temperature. Even with internal temperature controls some airlines may refuse to accept animals when outside temperatures (while the plane is en route) are too high or too low. In the absence of such restrictions, it's still wise to plan ahead for your pet. When traveling in the summer it's best to book a flight leaving in the early morning or evening; for winter flights a mid-day booking is most comfortable for traveling animal companions. Also, book non-stop flights if possible because a layover adds to the time the pet is confined to its crate and increases the chances of a delay.
Flying with Pets.Lisa Schoppa, managing director of the luxury dog-care service The Spot Experience, spoke with us late last year and offered advice for flying with pets. Her talking points for travel day: Do not sedate your pet; do not offer food because the animal may experience motion sickness; place a worn piece of clothing in the crate for the comfort of a familiar smell; tape sealed food to the roof of the crate so airport employees can feed the pet if need be.
In a recent follow-up query about international travel, Ms. Schoppa shared a tip for keeping a pet hydrated: A frozen water bowl in the crate will melt slowly during the flight and provide fluids without making a mess. Ms. Schoppa also stresses the critical importance of advance planning.
Planning for International Travel with a Cat or Dog.Pre-trip planning requires that you know the airline's rules, prepare the pet, and gather all the paperwork. Not all airlines transport pets, especially internationally, and the rules and requirements vary depending on the size and breed of the animal. To prepare a cat or dog for a long trip in a crate, begin acclimating the pet to the crate at least a month before. Make the crate a safe and happy place where the animal enjoys treats, not somewhere it goes as punishment. During the days immediately prior to the trip, be generous with food. With travel day a fasting day, a big meal the night before is in order.
Consulates of the countries you'll be visiting are the go-to source for the rules and required documentation. The information often can be found at the consulates' websites, and the U.S. Department of State posts a directory of consular office locations. Failure to meet all the requirements means the pet will be quarantined at the airport, at the owner's expense, until the requirements are met; returned to its home country; or, in extreme cases, put down. Some popular destinations, especially island countries like Australia and the United Kingdom, take extra precautions with animals.
Most countries require pets to be microchipped, vaccinated, and accompanied by a recent health certificate from an accredited veterinarian. If your vet is unfamiliar with the process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists veterinarians that can provide the necessary documentation, tests, and inspections. Some vaccinations, such as rabies, must be administered several weeks before the date of travel.
Lastly, as it may slip your mind amidst all the other preparations, make sure that your lodging allows animals.