How to Prepare Your Pet for International Travel

pet international travel

Depending on the country you are travelling to, your pet may require additional vaccinations and/or medical checks. It is best to speak with your vet well in advance of the travel dates so that they can prepare your pet and schedule an International Health Certificate examination appointment.

This will allow sufficient time for your pet to be vaccinated and acclimated to their carrier before the flight.

Health Requirements

There are many different health requirements for travel, and if your pet is traveling internationally it’s important to make sure they meet those requirements. First, talk to your veterinarian about your trip. They’ll perform a health exam and provide you with an international health certificate. It’s best to have this done as close to your departure date as possible. Most countries have specific timelines that must be met.

During this appointment, the vet will scan your pet’s microchip and perform a complete clinical exam. They’ll also give your pet any necessary treatments for the destination country. This includes anti-malaria medication for dogs, and rabies vaccines for cats and dogs (CDC recommends a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before travel). The veterinarian will also review your pet’s travel plans with you. They’ll help you determine whether your pet will be flying in the cabin with you or if it will need to be put into cargo.

Once your pet has a healthy international health certificate, it’s time to get the necessary paperwork together. This will involve making an appointment with a USDA-accredited veterinarian who can sign the certificate. Depending on the country to which you’re traveling, your vet may need to mail the certificate and other documents to the USDA for endorsement.

Keep in mind that the vet who signs your international health certificate should be experienced with doing this for pets traveling to and from Hawaii. Getting this step completed well ahead of your travel dates is essential, as it can take up to 6 months for the process to be finished and for your pet to be able to fly. During that time, you may have to pay for an animal autopsy and other expensive tests to make sure your pet didn’t die on the airplane from a disease that can be spread to people.


As part of your pet’s routine wellness care, vaccines are vital to keeping your pets healthy and protected against illnesses. Many veterinarians recommend that your pet be vaccinated against diseases native to your travel destination to protect them abroad and reduce the risk of them introducing foreign disease into our community when they return.

Almost all countries require a rabies vaccination and will require you to provide a signed rabies certificate. The timing for this varies by country and you will likely need to have your pet receive the vaccine within 30 days of your departure date. The time required to wait between the rabies vaccination and receiving the titer test can also vary by country.

Your pet may also require additional vaccinations to meet the requirements of your travel destination and you should have these completed by an experienced veterinarian. Northside Veterinary Clinic has USDA Accredited Veterinarians and our Pet Travel Consultants can help you discover the specific requirements of your travel destination.

Some countries will require a pet passport or equivalent document that will contain details about your pet, the owner and contact information. This is a good idea to have your veterinarian complete before your trip and will save you from having to meet rushed deadlines at the airport.

A microchip is an important safety measure for your pet as it improves their chances of being reunited with you in the event they are lost while traveling. You will want to ensure that your pet is implanted with a microchip and that the information on the microchip matches the information you have for them. Some airlines will not allow you to fly with your pet if their microchip information isn’t updated before they fly or if it doesn’t comply with ISO microchip standards (e.g. 11784 or 11785).


Having your pet microchipped is an important step in the overall process of preparing your pet for international travel. It is also the first step in identifying your dog or cat in the event that they should become lost while traveling abroad.

Most countries require your pet to be microchipped, especially EU countries. Your dog or cat’s microchip must be ISO compatible, meaning it must have the 15 digit code. Having the correct microchip is essential as a large percentage of pets who are separated from their owners at airports or in unfamiliar places are never reunited with them.

When you are microchipping your pet for international travel, check with the microchip manufacturer to ensure that the chip will be ISO compatible. Then, make sure your pet’s contact information is up to date on the microchip registry to avoid any issues when entering the new country.

Before having your dog or cat microchipped for international travel, be sure that they have a valid rabies vaccination. Many airlines require the rabies vaccination to be given at least 10 days before flying internationally, but it is important to check with your airline for specifics.

It is recommended that you have your pet microchipped before or at the same time as their rabies vaccine to reduce any chance of complications with vaccinations. Be sure to let your veterinarian know that you will be traveling with your pet so that they can include the microchip number on the animal health certificate. It is recommended that you use the Datamars Microfindr Slim microchip as they have a thinner gauge needle and will emit an audible click when implanted. This will help to ensure that the microchip is properly inserted and won’t be able to be pulled out.


As a pet owner, you’ll want your pet to travel comfortably. A pet carrier will make it possible for them to relax during the flight and feel secure and safe in an unfamiliar environment. A reliable airline-compliant crate or carrier will also allow you to keep an eye on them during the flight, which is especially important in international travel.

Airline carriers differ by size and specifications, so before selecting a carrier, check with your intended airline for dimensions, breed restrictions, and other guidelines. Additionally, many airlines will only allow you to bring a carrier and one personal item as carry-on, so keep that in mind as you shop for the right carrier.

Whether you’re looking for an airline-compliant crate or carrier, look for quality zippers, a sturdy plastic frame, and a door that closes securely without jiggling when you open it. Lining the carrier with a scent-soaked towel or adding a favorite toy can help make the experience less stressful for your pet. Be sure to introduce your pet to the carrier well in advance of your flight, so they can become accustomed to being confined and feel comfortable.

A reputable international pet shipping service will have an extensive database of country-specific health requirements and be able to guide you through the process of collecting any required documentation. They will also be able to arrange flights for your pet, handle airport security clearances, and ensure that the pet is properly cared for during transit. Some companies offer additional services, such as grooming and boarding after the flight, which can be beneficial if your pet has to spend a long time in their kennel during layovers or delays.


After discussing your travel plans with your veterinarian and making sure that your pet meets all the requirements of your destination country (including having a microchip with international ISO standards), it’s time to start researching flights. Look for direct flights, or at least those with few stops and connections. If you have to choose a stop, try to schedule it during the winter or early spring to avoid high temperatures.

You’ll also want to consider flight schedules and departure times. Make sure to book your flight well in advance and plan for delays, particularly those related to weather or security. If your pet will be traveling in cargo, don’t forget to notify the captain and flight attendants that you have pets on board so they can take precautions. Don’t ever ship brachycephalic breeds, such as Pekingese dogs or Persian cats in the cargo hold—these breeds tend to have respiratory challenges that are exacerbated by stress and extreme temperature changes.

If you have any concerns about how your pet will travel, speak with a USDA-accredited veterinarian who routinely does international health certificates. He or she can advise you about how to prepare your dog or cat for travel and recommend a carrier that will meet airline regulations. A reputable pet transport company can also provide help and guidance with a range of issues, including the necessary paperwork and arranging for your dog or cat to clear customs upon arrival at your destination.

Finally, don’t forget to take your pet crate and all required paperwork with you to the check-in counter for your flight. You’ll be asked to present them to the agent just as you would your own ticket and passport.