By Deirdre Chiaramonte, DVM, DACVIM, The Animal Medical Center
The key to successful international travel is to start planning early. First, review the pet policies of your foreign destination and call the consulate at least a year in advance to determine what vaccinations, blood tests and paperwork are required for your pet to successfully enter a foreign country. Regulations change unexpectedly and you should check with the consulate frequently to prevent a last minute rule change from thwarting your carefully planned trip.
For example, prior to 2002, travel to the United Kingdom was prohibited unless your dog was quarantined for 6 months! Quarantine is no longer required, but travelers should anticipate an involved process requiring multiple trips to the vet for vaccinations, blood tests, microchips and deworming. A useful website for UK travel information is http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/index.htm. There is also a helpful brochure to download called "Protecting the welfare of pet dogs and cats during journeys."
If you are thinking of traveling to a different hemisphere, there may be other requirements. For example, if you are traveling to Australia you need to apply for an AQIS import permit. Additionally, many countries use a ‘Pet Passport’ to facilitate pet travel. For more information, visit http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/qanda_en.htm.
Which pets should travel?
Not all pets should travel internationally. It is much safer if your dog or cat can travel under seat with you than in cargo for those long transoceanic flights. Besides geriatric dogs and dogs with chronic diseases – brachycephalic dogs, dogs with behavior issues (separation anxiety) and dogs with arthritis (staying in same position for long hours is hard on joints), also epileptic dogs should not travel in cargo.
How to get there?
If traveling by sea, some ships have kennels, but most do not permit pets in the staterooms. Airline websites usually have their own section on pet travel rules and regulations and these sites will detail what crates they will approve for travel. Choose direct flights if possible and try to avoid the hottest or coldest part of the day to travel.
Label the crate (in English and the native language of the country to which you are traveling) with all identification and medical information in case you are separated from your pet due to unforeseen circumstances. Secure a photo of the pet to the crate, a copy of the medical record and some of the pet’s food so airline personnel can feed your pet in the event of an emergency. A large sticker saying LIVE ANIMALS should be placed on the crate as well. Animals should be familiar, comfortable and acclimated in their crates long before embarking on a trip. Supply your pet with a non-spill bowl for water inside the crate and line the bottom of the crate with absorbent paper.
On the day of travel, feed only a light meal a few hours before departing. Water can be frozen so it will thaw slowly and spill less or you can teach your pet to drink from a special water dispensing bottle attached to the inside of the crate. Veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center do not recommend sedatives due to possible adverse reactions and inability to react to certain situations such as take-off and landing.
Once you have determined the travel regulations for your pet, the real research begins. You need to find pet-friendly hotels and a veterinarian who can handle emergencies at your destination. You will also need to plan for any changes in weather might affect your pet as well as determine the pooper-scooper laws at your destination.
Carry health and vaccine records, extra food, medication refills and extra copies of paper prescriptions, microchip information, extra leashes and collars and photos of the pet. You may elect to purchase a personal microchip reader to facilitate entry through customs.
You may want to seek additional advice about international travel from a USDA accredited veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian if they hold this certification. If not, you may contact The Animal Medical Center for assistance. To make an appointment at The AMC, please call 212 838-7053.
For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.