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A practical guide to traveling abroad with a pet

Megan Broussard

Hooray! You’re finally going on your whirlwind backpacking trip, or planning the holiday-esque house swap, but you want to bring your pet with you. We don’t blame you; we would too.

Let’s break down the basics: pet passports, microchips, vaccinations and airline policies. These are requirements for some of the most popular destinations, such as the UK, Australia and Spain.

1. Pets must be microchipped

Your pet should already have a microchip, but make sure it’s the right kind. Your pet must be microchipped with an ISO 11784-compliant 15-digit pet microchip, which is accepted by most major countries.

2. Get a pet passport

Similar to your own passport, your pet’s passport is a must for international travel. It comes in the form of a pet’s health certificate. Because each country sets its own requirements for pet travel, the process of obtaining certification varies slightly depending on the destination. Here are the three steps to take as outlined by USA Today.

  • Request pet travel information from the local consulate or embassy of the country you and your pet are traveling to as the specific requirements are different for each country. For example, ask what forms are required and what vaccinations your pet must have, and determine if the country has any other pet restrictions, such as a home quarantine period.
  • Make sure the veterinarian you’re working with is certified by the USDA as an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian, or ask for a referral to one. Have the veterinarian give your dog or cat the required vaccinations, including a rabies vaccine, and inspect it for good health before asking him or her to complete the health certificate.
  • Send the completed health certificate to your state’s USDA Veterinary Services center to have it endorsed by the state veterinarian. Then include a signed rabies vaccination certificate and an original copy of any lab work that is noted on the health certificate as supporting documentation. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time — often several months — in advance of your trip to complete this.
dog in airport
Image: Giphy

3. Follow the foreign country’s vaccination guidelines

The timing of vaccinations is extremely important, so read the rules carefully. In Australia and the UK, the blood titer test (RNATT) should be completed no sooner than 180 days prior to entry. Make sure your veterinarian scans your pet’s microchip prior to the titer test.

Before your dog or cat can enter Australia, for example, it must be treated against internal parasites twice with the second treatment administered within five days of transport. Two treatments against external parasites must be administered to your cat 14 days apart with the second treatment within five days of transport. Dogs must start treatments 21 days prior to Ehrlichia blood sampling. Your pet must have had a rabies vaccination within one year of entry.

If your pet is entering Spain from a rabies-free or rabies-controlled country, it will need a rabies vaccination after the microchip is implanted and more than 21 days prior to entry but not more than the expiration date of the manufacturer of the vaccine. If your dog or cat or ferret has not been vaccinated after it was fitted with a microchip, it will have to be vaccinated again after the microchip is implanted. Once you have entered Spain, a 21-day waiting period is not required for subsequent visits, provided rabies boosters are kept up-to-date and the other entry requirements are met.

4. Read airlines policies carefully

Check reservation timing and fees (depending on route and whether or not your pet will be flying in-cabin or cargo) and the specific carrier requirements for your pet (material, weight and dimensions of portable crates), including rules on proper food and water receptacles in transit.

Be sure to note restrictions on certain breeds as outlined by the respective airline. Spain’s Iberia Airlines, for example, requires certain breeds to be muzzled even when flying in cargo, like the pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier. On Australia’s Qantas Airlines, some breeds (full and cross bred) aren’t allowed at all, such as the Brazilian Fila, Dogo Argentino, American pit bull and pit bull terriers.

Assistance dogs have slightly more leeway. You can bring your assistance dog into the UK without quarantine as long as it meets the rules of the EU pet travel scheme and in Australia, only service dogs can be carried into the passenger cabin of the aircraft.

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