“Ummmm, I think I forgot the third copy of his health certificate!”
My face was absolutely panicked as I rechecked my dog’s travel folder, for the third time. I had put everything in there, in order, as directed. I had read all the rules 30 times, at least.
But we were still here, on the way to the airport and not sure what happened to that third copy of the health certificate.
Before you take off, make sure that you completely prepare your pet for air travel.
Before You Book
Unless you are traveling on PCS orders, you might have a little more flexibility with flights. Do some research into different airlines, where they fly and their pet policies.
Some airlines only allow small dogs and cats in the cabin. Others will allow animals in the cabin and in cargo, but only in the continental United States. There are just a handful of carriers that will transport pets in the cargo area overseas.
There are also size restrictions for pets flying in the cabin. Every airline is slightly different, so be sure to triple check your pet and his travel carrier before you pay. For pets flying in cargo, there are different charges based on the size and weight of your pet plus her kennel.
Additionally, there are temperature restrictions, especially for pets in cargo. Typically, pets are not allowed to fly if it is over or under a certain temperature. This is for their safety and comfort, as well as for your peace of mind.
Your pet should also be checked out by a veterinarian. This is especially true if you are PCSing overseas since your furry friend will need a clean bill of health to move with you. Your vet can help you work through any concerns you might have, like age or anxiety, and make recommendations to keep your pet comfortable during the trip.
After you book, do some research into kennel requirements. Most airlines have specific rules about the size of the kennel compared to the size of the pet. Be sure you are getting the correct kennel for your flight!
Once you have the kennel, get your pet used to it. Make it a safe space where he is rewarded. Start feeding your pet in the kennel. Give treats whenever your dog follows your command to go into the kennel. You could also move his pet bed into the space or set it up by your cat’s scratching post.
Another idea is to make trips fun. Take your pet for car rides in the kennel, ending at a dog park or back home. Give lots of praise, cuddles and treats for good behavior.
If your pet is very anxious about flying, talk to your vet about possible solutions. You should also be checking in with your vet or seeking treatments according to the pet import or travel rules of your destination.
Week Before the Trip
Pay another visit to your vet’s office. Have your vet double-check your pet’s health. Be sure to ask for a certificate of health.
Depending on where you are traveling, there may be different health certificate requirements. When traveling overseas, many countries require a USDA certified veterinarian to complete a health certificate within 10 days before the pet’s arrival. Different countries also require various vaccines, microchipping and quarantine procedures.
Your vet can help with all of these. Most military veterinary treatment facilities are well versed in the pet travel rules, especially for PCSing families.
The week before your trip, you should also gather your supplies:
- pet pee pads
- water and food containers
- zip ties
- kennel labels
Now is also a great time to really make sure that you have all the copies you need of your paperwork. You do not want to be driving to the airport when you realize you’re a copy short!
Night Before the Trip
Get your kennel ready. Place the pee pads inside and tape a few extra inside of a ziplock baggie to the top of the kennel. Freeze water inside of the water bottle or bowl. This way it won’t spill everywhere during take-off. Place labels on the kennel and be sure that your information is visible. Make a few baggies of food for your pup. Tape these to the kennel as well.
Prepare your paperwork too. Secure these as directed by the airline, usually in another ziplock or watertight bag on the outside of the kennel. Keep a few extra copies in your carry-on bag, just in case.
Make sure that you have a copy of your pet’s flight itinerary, especially if he is flying separately from you or in cargo. Take a picture of him on your phone for visual identification in case there are questions or concerns later on.
In your luggage, make sure you have everything you will need for your pet at your destination. Also, pack some baby wipes and maybe a travel-size bottle of fabric spray.
Right Before You Fly
Take your pet for a nice long walk in the morning to get some energy out. Feed him according to your vet’s instructions and administer any medication as directed (and legal). Many airlines won’t fly animals that have been sedated, so clear that with your vet and check the airline’s policy.
At the airport, before you drop off your pet or before you board, make sure to take one last walk. Offer lots of praise and love as you kennel your fur baby. Make sure there is enough water in the container and that the food is ready to go as needed.
Have your pet’s paperwork ready to go at check-in. Keep the zip ties handy for securing kennels going cargo.
If your pet is flying in the cabin, keep a small empty pet water bottle with you through security. Fill it up at a water fountain before you board. Keep food and treats, as well as any medicines, in your carry-on bag.
When You Land
After you deplane or reunite with your pet, take her out for a potty break right away. If there has been an accident in the kennel, now is the time to deploy those baby wipes. Clean up your pet and their crate, replace the pee pad and maybe give a quick spritz of that fabric spray.
I went back through my folder one last time.
And I finally found that third copy of the health certificate. We were all set to fly!
What are your tips for traveling with pets?