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How To Prepare Your Pet for Moving Overseas

How To Prepare Your Pet for Moving Overseas

Moving Pets Overseas? Guide to International Pet Relocation 

We’ll be straight with you: The process that’s involved with moving abroad with pets can be overwhelming. We highly recommend that you use a pet relocation service to assist you with your move. Whether you are traveling with your pet or looking to ship your pet with a reputable pet transportation company (that’s us), this guide will help you understand what it takes to relocate pets internationally. 

Our first piece of advice: Start planning for 3 to 6 months before moving with your pet.

This is what you need to know about moving your pet overseas, and what Pet Transport Pro offers at each level.

1. Start With APHIS: Is Your Pet Qualified for International Travel? 

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains a website that is a great place to start your research.

It’s here that you’ll find answers to these questions:

  • Is my pet qualified to travel? Dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits qualify as pets. Fun fact: Some birds qualify as pets; however, poultry (chickens, ducks, etc.) do not. The majority of pet owners moving overseas have dogs and cats. We exclusively move dogs and cats at Pet Transport Pro.. 
  • Is there an age limitation for my dog or cat? Most countries have minimum age requirements for pets, Usually this is in the 12 to 15 week range depending on your destination.
  • Does the country require pets to be quarantined? Most destinations in the EU, and the UK, do not require pets to be quarantined. Some international destinations may require quarantine. 
  • Does my pet need to have a microchip? Most countries require ISO-standard microchips, which means that it is compatible with microchip scanners around the world. How do you know if your pet’s microchip is ISO-compliant? If its microchip number has less than 15 digits, it’s probably not. See #3 below for more information about pet ID chips.
  • Does the host country require internal treatments after entry? Some countries might require a tick or tapeworm treatment within 1 to 5 days of entering the country, for example. 

APHIS offers a downloadable pet owner worksheet, which they recommend completing before you meet with your USDA-accredited veterinarian. 

Prefer to let the professionals handle these details? We got you. We’ve shipped pets to multiple international destinations, including throughout Europe and Asia, and we have the processes nailed down. Contact Pet Transport Pros for details.

2. Is Your International Destination Pet-Friendly?

The best way to learn about another country’s pet requirement is by doing a simple internet search for “dog requirements + [country]” or “cat requirements + [country]”. A word of caution: Your search engine’s AI answers may not be 100% accurate. Google’s and Bing’s AI tools are still in their infancy.

Searching for “dog requirements Italy” on Google, these are the sites we’d recommend selecting:

While Quora and Reddit can offer user-generated answers to your questions, for something as important as taking a pet overseas, you want trustworthy professional advice. Again, this is something that Pet Transport Pros can help you with. Not only do we have experience shipping dogs and cats overseas, but we stay on top of international and customs’ regulations. 

3. Find a USDA-Accredited Veterinarian

If your local veterinarian is not USDA accredited, the APHIS website can help you find the nearest one. Select Find Accredited Veterinarians, and enter your state, county, and species (canine for dog and feline for cat). Select Category I if you’re transporting a dog or cat overseas.

Why do you need a USDA-accredited vet? Only animal doctors that have been certified by the USDA can provide the health papers that your pet will need to travel with when moving across borders. In our experience, 95% of international destinations require USDA endorsement of health certificates. 

Vaccination requirements

Every country has its own vaccination requirements, including the United States. You’ll be able to find them by going to the APHIS website and selecting the destination country under the Find Your Destination Country Requirements drop-down.

Most countries require rabies shots to be given 21 to 30 days before the pet’s travel date, depending on where you go. 

Pet identification chip requirements

Pets that travel internationally must be microchipped with an ISO-compliant chip. The chip number should be 15+ digits. If you aren’t sure whether your pet’s existing chip meets ISO standards, or if is older, you can have your USDA-accredited veterinarian scan it. The good news is that an old or outdated chip doesn’t need to be removed, and it’s completely safe to have a new chip inserted.

If you are concerned about the safety of your pet and the microchipping process, this article from the American Veterinary Medicine Association addresses those concerns. In short: The procedure is safe, it is injected via hypodermic needle, and it is not a “tracker.” You cannot use a GPS device to track your pet through its microchip. Microchips are used to identify pets through scanners. 

4. Pet Paperwork for International Travel

Many airlines have their own pet documentation requirements, which you’ll learn about when you book their travel. To be best prepared, carry multiple copies of these documents with you, just in case the unexpected happens.

We also recommend that you create digital copies on your cell phone, if you are traveling with your pet. Transportation officials won’t likely accept digital versions if the hard copies are lost, which is why we recommend making multiple copies and digital copies. 

(You should carry digital copies of your travel documents as well, including your passport, insurance and important documents!)

An overseas relocation binder is also a great way to carry physical copies of required documents to help keep you and your furry companion organized. You can create this yourself by getting a 1/2-inch three-ring binder, which will hold about 50 sheets of 8.5 by 11 inch paper. 

This is a list of documents that you may be required to provide:

  • Health certificate signed and dated by your USDA-accredited veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA
  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • Rabies vaccination or other required test results (depending on destination)
  • Import permit (if applicable)

Pet Transport Pros’ clients don’t have to worry about the paperwork. We handle all of it on their behalf, and we make sure everyone has copies of the right documents.

5. Purchase A Travel Kennel

Once you have determined your pet travel kennel requirements, it’s time to purchase a travel kennel. Your pet will be required to travel in an airline-approved kennel or pet carrier. Before moving overseas with your pet, it is important to acclimate your pet to the kennel or carrier before starting your travel journey.

You can do this by leaving the kennel out and open at home. Let your pet explore it. Put their favorite toys or blankets inside, to let them know it’s safe and for them. Take them for short car local trips to get them used to being inside the kennel while moving. Have your pet sleep in the kennel at night, so your pet will begin to consider this space safe. 

The kennel must have adequate ventilation, must enclose your pet (their head cannot stick out), a waterproof bottom, and two water bowls. This guide from IATA (International Air Transportation Association) explains the dimensions of pet shipping containers.

Kennel purchases are part of the services that we offer to Pet Transport Pros’ clients. We ensure that your pet has the right size and type of kennel.

6. Research Airlines’ Pet Travel Policies

Some airlines limit when pets can travel. There are some US carriers, for example, that don’t allow pet shipping to certain parts of the world between May and September, when it is too hot to travel in cargo areas of airplanes.

When we book our clients’ pets’ travel, we handle all of this. We are well-familiar with the major airlines’ policies when shipping pets. We also know the best airlines for pet travel and for shipping pets.

To do your own homework, you can search “international pet travel policy + [airline]” on Google search.

7. Prep Your Pet for Travel Day

We provide our clients with a checklist of things to do to prepare their pets for travel. In general, the list of things to do includes:

  1. Plan to drop off your pet 4 to 6 hours prior to the international flight’s departure time.
  2. Plan to pick up your pet  within 4 hours of its arrival time.
  3. Do not sedate your pet. Airlines will not accept pets that have been sedated. Your veterinarian can go over the pros and cons of sedating pets prior to travel. 
  4. Avoid feeding your pet before the flight, as recommended by your Pet Transport Pro or veterinarian. Water should be available at all times.
  5. Gather everything on the checklist, including documents, approved kennel, and water dishes/bowls.

Work With A Pet Transportation Company

The process sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Moving from the USA to an international destination can be exciting and stressful, and when you’re a pet owner, you can multiply that stress x 10. Whether you’re moving overseas with your pet temporarily or permanently, we can take the stress out of that part of your international move. 

A pet transportation company is a valuable tool in assisting you with your pet relocation needs. Give us a call today, or use our online form to tell us a few details about your planned trip, so we can put together an estimate (at no charge).