Traveling with Your Dog to Europe
To Fly or Not To Fly
The International Travel List
Getting Your Dog Ready
At the Airport
On Board the Aircraft
Minimize Your Stress While Traveling With Your Pet
Arrival At Your Destination
Traveling with your dog can be an enjoyable, enriching experience when you are educated and prepared for the journey.
Much like traveling with an infant, you must anticipate your dogs every need, as well as prepare all of the required paperwork.
I have created a list to help you through the process.
To Fly or Not To Fly:
You must decide what is best for your dog in regard to traveling. Initially, I consulted a few veterinarians who gave me the following advice:
- Do not fly with your dog. Find a dog sitter so that your dog can remain in their environment at home. If this is not acceptable then . . .
- Find a reputable boarder (either a person to take your dog in their home or a facility that caters to doggy day care and overnight care). If this is not acceptable or affordable then . . .
- Contact the airline and reserve a space for your dog in the cabin underneath the seat. If your dog needs to travel in cargo then . . .
- Leave them at home! Do not put your dog in cargo!
The general opinion of most veterinarians is that you should not travel with your pet, as the experience is very stressful on the animal, and there are known horror stories….
However, after consideration, I decided that traveling for my dog would be no more stressful than my own traveling, and to ease my anxiety I also remembered that there are dog shows all over the world. Many dogs fly in the cabin, but the larger breeds fly in cargo. This fact gave me the confidence to begin my research.
Traveling with your Dog:
If you decide that you want your dog to be with you at your destination, but do not have the time, or patience to plan for their safe passage there are pet transportation companies who specialize in this growing market.
I have contacted and researched a few, and found that petmovers.com is a responsible and helpful resource. Be aware that if you choose to hire a pet transportation company that the cost can be substantial depending on the destination. (www.petmovers.com)
Now that you have decided to have your dog join you on your travels, the following list is extremely important. Domestic travel and international travel have very different requirements and will be listed separately.
The International Travel List:
Planning your international travel with your dog is an issue of timing between the airline, country of destination, your veterinarian, and the US Department of Agriculture. The list begins with the airline.
International Airline/Country Requirements
- Visit your airline’s website and locate the ‘traveling with pets’ section. Most European airlines welcome pet travelers and are extremely accommodating and helpful.
- Review the ‘traveling with pets’ section thoroughly and write down any additional questions that may arise.
- Contact customer service or the number for booking pet passage. Speak to the representative to find out if all of the information on the website is current or if there are any additional regulations.
- Inquire about the cost of traveling in the cabin. This cost for traveling in the cabin is usually a fixed price. The price for traveling in cargo is determined by the weight of the container.
- Ask about pet carriers and which brand is acceptable. Most pet stores carry these carriers but make sure that they are ‘airline approved’. If your pet travels in the cabin the carrier must fit under the seat. Sherpa pet carriers are one of the best and are airline approved. (www.sherpapet.com)
- If your pet is traveling in cargo make sure that the container is approved, tightly assembled and does not have a lock. In case of emergency the flight crew will have to have access to the pet.
- Most airlines restrict the number of pets permitted on each flight as well as in each section of the plane (ex/ 1 pet in First Class, 1 pet in Business Class, and 1 pet in Coach).
- If your dog is traveling in cargo there are usually only a small number of reservations available depending on the airline, and depending on the size of the container.
- Ask if there are any open reservations for your departure and return, and then ask if the fee if refundable if there is a problem with either the vet or the US Department of Agriculture. Although in most cases the fee is paid when you check in at the airport.
- Make an appointment with your veterinarian specifying that you will be traveling internationally and need a health certificate. If your pet is not microchipped, specify that one will be needed.
- Your vet will examine your dog and make sure that your pet has all of the proper vaccinations. Rabies is an extremely important vaccination and is time sensitive to specific countries.
- You will have to microchip your dog. I was a bit leery at first, but it is a requirement for international travel. It is important that you have your vet give you the ‘international’ microchip as it can be scanned at any airport. The non international microchips do not have as many numbers and you may be required to bring your own scanner. This scanner is both costly to buy and/or rent. There is no cost difference in the chip itself, and it can be scanned domestically as well, so I suggest that you microchip with the international version.
- Once your pet is microchipped the vet should check the chip with a scanner to make sure that it is working.
- Once your vet has given your dog a clean bill of health, including all vaccinations and microchipping, he or she will give the paper work to a staff member who specializes in traveling. He/she will ask you a series of questions including what destination country, contact information, etc. I would also give a U.S. contact in the unfortunate event of a lost pet. I wanted to make sure that if I made it to Europe, but my dog remained in the US, I wanted to have someone for the airline to contact as the container is treated as lost baggage. Preferably the person should be in your vicinity. As I tend to over plan I also gave the contact information for my sister who happens to live in another state (just in case). Remember that if many of your friends take their vacation at the same time you may want to have backups, also in case of emergency.
- After all of the information is gathered, the staff person sends the packet off to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will review the request/information, stamp and seal the document (United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals). This document is valid for 30 days. As I live in New York City, the turn around time was about 5 days. If you are not in a large city be sure to remember that the turn around time may be longer so make sure that your flight dates and your dog’s paperwork fall into the same time frame.
- If you are in the NYC area you have an advantage of visiting the US Department of Agriculture yourself for the review, stamp and seal. I had a limited time to get the paperwork for my dog and the staff person at the vet advised me to go out to LaGuardia Airport (which is the location of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). I took a car service to the office, and as they are used to receiving most requests by mail, the human presence was, I assume, greatly received. In a matter of 5 minutes my paperwork was reviewed, stamped and sealed by a courteous gentleman. This was a great relief as my traveling was for a medical emergency in Europe.
- When the veterinary office receives your paperwork back, they will phone you to pick it up. You take the originals and they keep a copy.
- You will receive 3 documents marked with a seal:
- United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals. This document will have a sticker with the microchip number and a bar code for your pet.
- Rabies Vaccination Certificate for Manhattan County, New York (i.e.: county will change depending on your residency)
- Certificate for the country you are visiting. An example is Certificat Veterinaire Pour Chiens, Chats et Furets Domestiques Introduits Dans La Communaute Europeenne A Des Fins De Mouvemenys Non Commerciaux (Vertinary Certificate for Domestic Dogs, Cats and Ferrets Entering the European Community for Non-Commercial Movements) This document is issued in both English and the spoken language of the country you are visiting. This document will have a sticker with the microchip number and a bar code for your pet.
- Be sure to register your dog with PetLink.net, which is an international pet directory, so that your pet can be traced in case of emergency.
- Your vet will provide a tag that indicates the website and phone number of PetLink. I suggest adding this tag to your pet’s collar. This alerts people that your dog is registered and also gives website and phone information in the event of a lost pet.
- Tip #1 – Make sure that your name on the paperwork is the same as on your passport. The vet’s office uses my husband’s last name for all of our dogs, but for all of my legal documents, including my passport, I use my maiden name. The first time I sent my paperwork to the U.S.D.A. my husband’s last name was used. Now this may not be of any consequence, however, as I have stated before, better to over plan and anticipate problems instead of getting to the airport, having your passport reviewed and finding a discrepancy in the paperwork.
- Tip #2 – Make copies of all of the paperwork for your pet. While most likely it will not be accepted as ‘official’ it will give the proper authorities a starting point and proof that you have done your due diligence. Make sure to store the copies in a different location so if your bag is lost or stolen you will have back up. If you are extremely over prepared you could also make copies and leave them with a friend or relative just in case you need them to be faxed to you.
Packing and Preparing
- Dog Identification – Your dog is now microchipped and presumably has a dog tag, however when you travel to a different country other considerations should be made.
- Assume that English is not spoken or read. The microchip provides information such as chip number, contact information, pet’s name and description, but what if your dog gets lost in say Paris or Berlin.
- Make up another dog tag with the location of where you will be staying – hotel, private residence, a friend’s house. This can be done inexpensively with DIY Tags. These can be purchased at your local pet store or ordered at www.hdoodle.com.
- The DIY Tag is very convenient, cost effective and easy to use. You write with a felt tip any information that you feel is appropriate. I wrote our dog’s name (first and last), the destination address, and telephone number. You then bake the tag in the oven for about 15 minutes. This shrinks the tag and when it cools off you can attach it to your dog’s collar.
- If your dog eats a particular brand of food it will be important to pack a certain amount. I visited France for 1 month so I packed a 1 week supply of dog food in my checked luggage.
- Your length of stay will determine if you will need to purchase food in the country you are visiting. Since I was staying for 1 month, I knew I would have to buy local dog food. The first few days I feed my dogs the food I brought, and then slowly over the next week I mixed the American dog food and the French dog food. I feel this was easier on their stomachs. (And I must say that my Cavaliers enjoyed their French dog food far more than the food I brought from home.)
- If you are on an extended trip I also suggest packing a supply of the local dog food for when you return to the U.S. Apply the same principle as when you arrived at your destination when you get home as your pet will have been used to a different type of food.
- Treat all dog medications as you would your own.
- Refill prescriptions in proper amount and in time for travel.
- Anticipate when you can administer the drugs. For example, it is recommended that the dog should not eat or drink for 6 hours before they fly. As international flights are many hours, as well as airport wait time, it is important to calculate when your dog will need their meds after you land.
- Check with your vet about a medication schedule including when to give their last dosage before the flight, how to adjust for the time difference, etc.
- Keep all medication in your carry-on bag. As with human meds you do not want to chance a lost bag with the medications in it.
- Bath and Grooming
- Airlines are very strict about pet odors as they do not want to offend other passengers.
- The day before you travel give your dog a bath and grooming including nail trim, ear trim and cleaning.
- Packing For Your Dog
- You may want to have a piece of luggage for your dog. Recently airlines are charging for additional baggage so you will have to decide what items are essential for your dog.
- Items to consider – a favorite toy, bowl, a blanket, a coat if it is going to be cold, extra leashes, extra collars, grooming items such as brushes, combs and clippers.
- Many items can be purchased at your destination.
- Packing For You
- Organization is essential when packing your carry on. If your pet is traveling in the cabin then the pet carrier is considered a carry on. This will limit what you pack in your personal bag. Take only the essentials such as medications, paperwork, laptop and any other items you feel are essential. Remember that you will be going though airport security with your pet.
- The Carriers
- Whether your dog is flying in the cabin or in cargo it is important to have them get used to the carrier.
- Leave the carrier out for about a week, including any padding or blankets lining the bottom.
- Let your dog get used to the smell and the size by allowing them to play with it, sleep in it, etc.
- If your dog is traveling in cargo the container will be larger. To help get my dogs comfortable with the carrier I curled myself up and sat in the carrier with them. While this may sound strange and over the top, I knew that my aroma would be in the carrier, on the padding and the blanket, thus helping my dogs to realize that I was with them.
- The carrier should have a tag with your home address and your destination. For the cargo carriers make sure when you are checking your dogs at the airport, a destination tag is attached.
- For cargo crates, I suggest having padding, a blanket and possibly an article of clothing with your scent on it (preferably a cotton tee shirt or sweater. Do not use a sock or stockings as these pieces invite unnecessary accidents such as possible accidental choking or strangling.) Some suggest that you freeze a bowl of water for them to lick as the flight progresses. I do not suggest this as the ice melts and may spill, or if it does not spill then the dog may drink all of the water and you will find a urine socked pad and dog.
- CARGO CRATES:
- Large enough to allow the pet to stand without touching the top of the crate, turn around and lie down.
- Strong and free of interior protrusions.
- Leak proof bottom that is covered with absorbent material such as a pad, blanket or towel. Inquire when purchasing if a pad is designed to accommodate this size of crate. The one I purchased was made of foam and I also layered on top a towel and a blanket.
- Clearly label the crate to include your name, home address, home phone number and contact information at your destination. Also designated in clear and large print “LIVE ANIMALS” with arrows indicating the upright position of the crate.
- Ventilation on opposite sides with an exterior rim and knobs so that airflow is not impeded.
- Tip #1 – When I was in the Geneva Airport I noticed another crate, surely owned by people who frequently travel, that had removable wheels. The lady took the dog out of the crate and attached a leash while the gentleman withdrew from his carry on 4 wheels. He snapped on the wheels, piled their luggage on top of the crate and wheeled their belongings out of the airport. If my pets were frequent ‘cargo’ flyers, I would indeed invest in such a crate. Since the crates are large and cumbersome this couple found an easy, elegant way to transport their beloved pet. (Be aware that the wheels will not be permitted in cargo, so they will have to be removed before checking in.)
- The Paperwork
- Treat the paperwork with the same importance as your passport and your own ticket.
- Purchase a plastic envelope with a snap to store all of your dog’s paperwork. As we traveled with more than one pet, each dog’s paperwork was stored in a manila envelope labeled by name and all were then stored in a plastic envelope. I wanted to have all documentation ready for review when I arrived at my destination.
- Carry On Bag for your Dog (If your pet is traveling in Cargo)
- Paperwork folder – needed at check in and on arrival
- Small plastic water bowl – after arrival
- Poo Poo bags – may need before you depart and after you land
- Roll of paper towels or napkins – accidents (vomit, urination, etc.)
- Treats – after arrival
- Airline Confirmation
- Contact the airline at least 24 - 48 hours before your flight to confirm that your pet reservation is in place. This is extremely important as some of the airlines confirm pet reservations in their corporate office. Because of the time zone difference requests are not always processed as quickly as we need them. Also some airlines have out sourced this task and you may be waiting for a call from India even if you are traveling to Switzerland.
- If your pet is traveling in the cabin, request a middle or aisle seat as they have more under seat space. The window seat has to accommodate for the design curvature of the aircraft and thus you have less room. If you are traveling with a Chiwawa this is not a problem, but a regular sized dog and carrier permitted in the cabin will probably not fit.
Getting Your Dog Ready
- Pet must travel on an empty stomach so no food at least 6 hours before the flight, but check with your vet to make sure.
- Exercise you dog by walking or rigorous playing the day and night before you are departing. If they are well exercised and thus fatigued, they will have a better ability to rest and sleep during the flight.
At the Airport
You are required to be at the airport at least 1 hour before your flight. If you are traveling with a pet I would add on at least an extra hour depending on the airport. The reason for this is that there may be complications with the reservations, the lines may be extra long or the dog may need extra handling.
- Walk the dog – Before you get in line to check in, take your dog out of the carrier or crate for a walk. Do not give your pet any food or water. This walk is to stretch and possibly poo poo and pee pee.
- General Check In – This process will be slightly different depending on whether your dog is traveling in the cabin or in cargo and is airline specific.
- First contact your airline customer service to get instructions on how to check in.
- The fee for traveling with a pet is usually paid for at the check in desk so have your credit card ready.
- Check In - Cabin – When you travel with your dog in the cabin the pet is considered one of your carry-on bags so you will get in line as you would normally unless the airline has instructed you differently.
- Have your paperwork ready to be reviewed
- Confirm that you have a tag on your carrier
- Check In - Cargo – When you travel with your dog in cargo you may have to go to a different desk first before you check in. They may weigh the carrier to get an accurate price. Be aware that price quoted to you over the phone may not be the same when you get to the airport. For example, my original quote was for $325.00USD, but after they weighed and measured the carrier the price was $450.00USD
- After the cargo check in you go through the line with your luggage and your carrier to the check in desk.
- The airline personnel confirms all of the ticketing and payment.
- Make sure that your carrier has a tag on it. Although the airline tagged the crate, I wrote all of the information on the top of the crate with a felt tipped pen. While I knew that this would be permanent, I was more concerned about the tag getting lost or detached.
- Once your tickets have been processed, your luggage tagged, the airline personnel will walk the crate through the security check point.
- You go through the security check as normal, but meet your dog in the crate at an assigned area.
- They ask you to remove the dog while they scan the crate. This is why it is helpful to have a leash in your carry on as it may take some time for the scanning.
- Once the airline personnel has approved the crate, you put the pet back in and say goodbye.
- Do not be alarmed if your pet barks or whines. They may be afraid. One of our Cavaliers is so rambunctious that we heard her barking through the JFK Terminal.
On Board the Aircraft
- Dog In Cabin – Your dog will have to be placed under the seat and most veterinarians will suggest not to sedate your pet. Here are a few suggestions.
- Once your dog is comfortably snuggled under the seat unzip the top just enough to reach your hand into the carrier. Let your dog lick your hand and gently stroke your pet to assure them that they are safe.
- During the flight I do not suggest giving your pet a drink or a treat as this may induce an accident. However every few hours, depending on the length of the flight, take an ice cube from your glass and let your pet lick the cube. The fluid will not be enough to induce urination and it will help with the dry air.
- Whenever you want, you can always unzip the carrier a little and give your dog a reassuring pet.
- Be aware that all airlines prohibit removing your pet from the carrier. This is to prevent a number of possible problems including: fellow passenger’s allergies, unpredictability of your pet, accidents, escape through the cabins, as well as other regulations. Do not be offended by these rules. For example, I am allergic to cats and if my neighbor was permitted to have their cat on their lap I would have to get another seat assignment.
- Also be aware that if your pet does not react favorably to flying and persistently barks or whines, the airline personnel may have to relocate your pet to a cabin closet. Again, please do not be offended by this as other passengers have the right to a comfortable flight. (I, myself, have often wondered how a crying baby or a screaming child is any less offensive to my comfort . . . but this is the society we live in.)
- Dog In Cargo – Most likely you will not be able to check on the status of your dog in cargo, but I have implemented an exercise to help ease my anxiety.
- Once I am seated I take a few deep breaths and imagine that my pet is comfortable and safe.
- I send relaxing thoughts to my pet and remind them that we will have a wonderful time when we reach our destination. Now to some people this may sound very ‘meta physical’, and I, at one time, would have agreed with them. However during your flight it is important to get as much relaxation and rest as possible so what is the harm of sending kind, wonderful thoughts to your beloved pet, who you have invested so much time planning and executing an itinerary to have them with you.
- Remember that if you are traveling in Coach, your pet probably has more leg room and is able to stretch out and sleep better than you. Even in First Class there are a number of distractions that will keep you awake – clanking dishes, the business man next to you who snores, the allergic reaction I had to the herbal hand cream. It appeared that when my husband and I arrived in Europe our dogs never suffered from jet lag, and were up and ready to experience a new country. I could not say the same for us. It took us a few days to acclimate while they adjusted perfectly.
Minimize Your Stress While Traveling With Your Pet
Whether your pet is in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold, traveling with pets is very stressful. Here are a few tips to help reduce the stress.
- Meditate and practice deep breathing to relax
- Drink a lot of water
- Take vitamins especially Vitamin C (Emergen-C packets are convenient to carry and dissolve in water. Just make sure you do not take them before you are ready to go to sleep.)
- Combat dry air with eye cream (yes even you non metro sexual guys), hand cream, and misting your face.
- Limit your liquids and creams to the required carry on amount or they will be confiscated.
- Face Misting - My suggestion is to purchase a small spray bottle and fill it with water inside of the cabin. Mist your face as you feel necessary.
- Eye Creams – One of the best is La Prairie, however, the price point is over $100 USD. I have discovered another product that is amazing for in cabin travel – Burt’s Bees Royal Jelly Eye Cream which you can purchase at www.evitamins.com for $14.39. The benefit of this product is that it is thick, moisturizing and blends vitamin E and aloe vera. While I do not use it under makeup, it is perfect during a long overseas trip to keep my eyes (and lips) moist.
- If you have ear, nose and throat aliments or allergies take a decongestant. I suggest a visit to your doctor for a prescription, however I have survived on over-the-counter Sudafed. Purchase the 4 hour dosage as the longer dosages tend to where off. I have had a number of ear infections due to flying and to reduce the stress of visiting a foreign doctor, as well as the price, (insurance usually only covers emergency room visits) take your decongestants.
- Listen to relaxing music on your iPod or tape player. I suggest Mozart at Midnight or Music for the Mozart Effect, Volume 5, Relax & Unwind (www.amazon.com).
- Bring a book or magazine. I find that during flight I am able to relax and really immerse myself in a book. Even a really poorly written book can distract you from stress.
- Watch the in-flight movies. While the choices are not always great they are a great way to escape.
- If you are a socializer and your neighbor is engaging, there is nothing better to pass the time as a great conversation with a stranger. Sometimes it feels wonderful to have a brief interaction without commitment or obligation, and it distracts you from stress.
- If you are an introvert, a book in front of your face or a headset is the best way to nonverbally communicate that you do not want to socialize. However if your neighbor is persistent do not feel pressured to engage. Politely say “I would love to chat but I have many appointments on arriving and I really need this time to decompress.” Most people will be respectful and you can rest.
- Try not to drink alcohol on your flight. I have found that a glass of wine or champagne with dinner is fine, but more than that is dehydrating, as well as impacts the little sleep I will get on the flight.
- Every once in a while get up and walk through the cabin. This will get your body moving and activity tends to reduce anxiety.
Arrival at your Destination
You have now arrived at your destination. You will have gone through security and had your passport reviewed. Depending on how you transported your dog will determine the next process.
- Dog In Cabin – Your dog will be with you as a carry on piece.
- Depending on the airport, you will have to go to a second check point after you clear customs.
- The will ask for your pets paper work and specifically checking that your pet was vaccinated for rabies.
- Dog In Cargo – When I went through security I was not questioned about my pets. This security check point is stationed after you pick up your dog. Depending on the airport you will be instructed on where and when to retrieve your pet. At the Geneva Airport I was told that my pets would be brought up with ‘special freight’. Here is where the timing game begins.
- It is up to you as to whether you want to get your luggage first or your dogs. Why I say this is that in my experience the “special freight” which included skies, oversized boxes, animal crates, etc. took much longer to materialize than my luggage. I was fortunate that my husband and I were traveling together so he retrieved our baggage and I waited for our dogs. Thankfully the airline personnel spoke English and were extremely polite. I am very impressed with both Swiss Air and Air France, both airlines taking much care and consideration with my dogs.
- After retrieving your dogs and luggage in most airports you will have to go through a second security check point. Here is where you will have to produce the documentation for your pet. The documents are reviewed and then you are on your way. It usually is very quick if you have done your homework and have all of your paperwork in order.
- Additional Tips
- Once you are outside have your poo poo bags, water, bowl and a few treats ready. Prepare these before you let your dog out as they will be extremely excited and you may be distracted. Put your dog on a leash and let them out. Try to take them to a vacant part of the sidewalk as surely your pet will have to urinate. Be ready for unusual behavior by your dog – excitement, barking, restlessness, fear, vomiting and possibly diarrhea. This is to be expected after a long flight and they should calm down after a bit.
- Car rentals are extremely easy and should be reserved before you leave the U.S. I have used both Avis and Hertz, but be aware that the car you reserve may not always be the car you rent. While the location staff is always very polite and accommodating, they do not always get the proper information.
- Make sure to have 2 forms of id (a valid US driver’s license and a passport are fine as you will need to have them with you anyway).
- I always suggest purchasing additional insurance. It is a bit costly however it pays for itself if you have an accident.
- If you are renting a luxury (ex: Mercedes, BMW, Volvo) vehicle make sure that you have 2 valid credit cards (Visa and Master Card are preferred as American Express is not always honored)
- If you are traveling with a crate make sure that the crate will fit in the car. American cars are available, but be sure that the crate will fit in the back. We rented the equivalent to a small station wagon (I was not able to rent an SUV as they did not have them in stock). We were barely able to fit the crate inside of the car.
- Once you are at your location and you if you will be driving through the country side with your pets, I suggest covering the seats with a sheet if you are not going to keep them in the crate. Dog hair, mud and dirt easily accumulate in a car and you want to return the vehicle without having a cleaning charge. You should also get a lint roller as this helps reduce dog hair on vehicle upholstery.
- After you have arrived at your location gently acclimate your dog to the space beginning with a walk. Let them smell and explore (on leash of course) their new location. You will be jet lagged and tired, but the walk does not have to be long, just a quick exploration of the neighborhood.
- Proceed in the same manner in your hotel room or where ever you are staying.
- Give them a small meal and a bowl of water.
- Now it is time for everyone (human and canine alike) to take a little nap – of course depending on your time zone and the length of stay at your destination
www.petlink.net (if pet is lost call 1-877-PETLINK immediately)
www.dog.com – live animal stickers, snap on wheels for plastic travel crates. Crates.