Traveling with a dog- the logistics
Traveling with your best friend makes any trip or relocation that much better. Having your pooch with you allows you to relax, knowing they're being taken care of in the best way! As well as sharing your adventures with your furry family member.
The experience of having the whole family together is undeniably amazing, but getting to the point where you are all safely in a new country has its difficulties.
We have taken our little doggy Blonda with us from Israel to 5 countries so far: The Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and Bulgaria.
Many people ask me about the technical aspects of traveling with a dog. Specifically- What paperwork you need, how to fly a dog in the cabin, how complicated it is, and if we ever had any problems entering a new country with our dog (Spoiler- no problems so far!!).
In this post I will try and answer as many questions as I can. Keep in mind I am not a government official or a licensed vet, and am only sharing from my own experiences.
I have included a checklist at the end of this post, with everything you need to get done before your trip. Make sure to check it out!
Cargo or Cabin?
Being able to bring your dog onto the cabin is the best way to travel. You can keep an eye on them, they are more relaxed, and usually get extra attention from cabin crew and passengers alike.
Unfortunately, this isn't always an option, depending on 3 factors:
The size and weight of the dog
Airline pet policy
The country of arrival policy
The size and weight of the dog
In most airlines that facilitate pets on cabin, you can bring them aboard if their weight- including the bag or cage- is under 8 kg. You would need to pay for them as extra luggage. the cost can vary dramatically between airlines and flight distance. As a general rule of thumb- for the longer flights the cost will be about 10% of your ticket. For short flight the cost is usually 30-60€.
Airline pet policy
Every airline has their own pet policy. This can make booking flights a bit more complicated, but once you get the hang of it- it's not really all that hard.
What we do is search for a flight using the standard apps and search engines, find the flight we would like to book, and then google that airline's pet policy.
You'd be surprised how many airlines facilitate this these days! The low cost airlines normally do not allow pets., Not in the cabin OR in the cargo. So though the extra you have to pay for bringing the pet is not a lot, the overall cost of the ticket will be higher.
It is recommended to contact the airline directly before booking the tickets, to check they will accommodate your dog. This it because every aircraft has a limit to the amount of pets it will carry, and if there already is another doggy onboard, you might be denied boarding! So you call the airline, make sure it's ok to book, and then go for it. After booking you should speak to the airline again, so they note on your reservation that you will be traveling with a pet. Some airlines can send you a link to pay for your dog online, while others will ask you to pay at the gate when checking in for the flight.
The final decision whether or not to allow the dog on board is reserved for the pilot. That means that at the last moment before boarding you can be told to put your dog in cargo. Keep this in mind! We always carry the cargo approved box with us, even when taking Blonda in the cabin, but have never had this happen to us. On the contrary!
Flying with Thai airways from the Philippines to Bangkok, Blonda was meant to go in the cargo, and was already put in the cargo hold. 2 minutes before takeoff a crew member called us out of the plane, gave us her cage and told us we can bring her on board.
In the cabin or in the crgo- make sure to follow the airline's regulation for size and type of container.
The country of arrival policy
Sounds odd, but even if the airline allows you to bring your dog onto the cabin, the country you're flying to might not. This is the case with China. I had never flown there, but even connecting through Hong Kong airport was not allowed! This is very important to know, as this is a very major airport connecting to may Asian destinations. So keep in mind when booking your flight to connect in Bangkok or other cities outside of China.
What paperwork you need to have
Though the information out there can be very overwhelming, the bottom line is that you only need these 3 pieces of paper with you when traveling with your dog, and 2 extra onse (marked with *) for specific countries only. Read on for a more in- depth explanation:
Current Rabies vaccination
Blood work results for rabies antibodies*
"Ok to fly" vet statement**
The 3 main documents have to be signed within 10 days of your flight. In special cases the airline will ask for a health certificate to be signed within 3 days of the flight. To find out which applies, you need to speak directly to the airline.
Let's get into each document, and find out exactly what each means:
1. Current Rabies vaccination
You should have a pet passport containing stickers with the vaccinations your dog has. The only one the local veterinary services actually care about is the Rabies one. As long as you have this sticker with the date and vet signature from the past year- that's all you need.
We did choose to give our dog Blonda extra vaccines for all kinds of other diseases- your local vet can recommend them. We also had to treat her for worms locally in the Philippines, and always keep the stickers in her little passport. These too show on the vaccine list, but are not mandatory for export or import.
Only the EU have a standard "Pet Passport", everywhere else just has a little booklet with the vaccines.
2. Health certificate
This is a standard form you get from your local vet. We have gotten these at every country we stayed in, before moving on to a new location. In most countries, you simply get a checkup at the vet and they sign this form for you. However- in some countries you would need to get an official government document. Some countries might also require these when traveling between regions within the country- this was the case in vietnam.
When traveling from Ho Chi Minh city by flight to Da Lat, we had to get a health certificate fromm the official veterinary office.
Vietnam was the only country we encountered so far that wants these nigned by the local government. The way to know is to consult with the local vet.
3. Export permit
Sometimes known as a shipping permit. This is an official government document you need to show when you land in your destination. Every large city will have a Veterinary services office where you can get the forms and signature- so make sure to get these BEFORE going to get this permit. They will want to see the Rabies vaccination date (within the pat year) and a health certificate signed by a vet. This is merely a formality, showing that a government official has gone through your documents and made sure they are in order.
4. Blood work results for rabies antibodies
We have encountered this requirement when bringing our dog in to the European Union. This is a blood test, drawn by your vet and sent out to the official ministry of agriculture lab in your country of origin. They check if the blood contains enough Rabies antibodies which means the dog is fully vaccinated. If the dog is vaccinated with valid medicine, the test will come back fine.
Note that this test must be performed no less than 90 days prior to your flight, making it the first thing you should do when preparing for your trip. Luckily, once you have performed this simple blood test, it is good for life- as long as you keep the dog's rabies vaccine up to date every year.
5. Import permit
Some countries want to get notified in advance when you arrive with a dog. We've had to do this when flying in to Israel, as well as Germany. When planning your trip, you should search online for each country's conditions for bringing in pets. We have found that the countries that require you to do this have a very clear website that explains which forms you should submit and where to send them. I have had to send the 3 regular forms- Rabies vaccine proof, health certificate and export permit, as well as a "Notification of Pet Arrival" I got from each country's website.
When all forms were received I got an import permit, which I had to present on check in to my flight.
6. "Ok to fly" vet statement
This one is really not required by any country, but we decided to ask our vet to write this statement for us. Some dog breeds are on the "no fly list" for having respiratory issues. These are the snub nosed breeds, such as Pugs or Bulldogs. Our Blonda is of mixed breed, but is listed at a "Terrier mix". Some Terriers are snub nosed and we were worried that we might have problems with some airlines. They do not want to take responsibility in case anything happens to the dog during the flight. We ended up having to use this document, when Philippine airlines refused to take her in the cargo because she is a Terrier.
Since you already have to go to the vet in order to get a health certificate, might as well ask them to give you this extra document.
This list of documents and regulations is a bit overwhelming, I know. You don't want to forget anything, since the welfare of your dog is at stake here. I had nightmares before our first trip, dreading she will not be let on the flight and we would have to cancel our travel plans.
Eventually I found that as long as you make sure to prepare and go over the checklist (below) , you shouldn't have any problems. The airlines are generally helpful and will do everything they can to make sure you and your dog get on the flight safely.
Hope you have enjoyed this post! If you have any questions, suggestions or corrections, please comment below!
Here is the checklist you can save and follow before your trip. Have fun and be safe!