Bone Voyage: Follow these tips if you are traveling internationally with pets

As summer approaches and the promise of widespread COVID-19 vaccination becomes more hopeful, those with cabin fever may be planning exciting vacations abroad after spending the past year in their homes.

If pet parents are considering a vacation overseas and intend to bring their animal, they should plan for their furry friend far in advance and do ample research, according to Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Travel outside of the continental U.S. has specific rules, certifications, and, potentially, vaccination requirements,” Rutter said. “Some international travel requires preparation up to six months in advance and/or a quarantine period. Each country is different, so it will require some leg-work on the part of your certifying veterinarian to make sure you are in compliance.”

Pet owners should visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) website to review country-specific requirements for pet travel. Their pet resource page may help to answer many owner questions.

Most countries require that your pet be checked by a federally accredited veterinarian and that a United States Interstate and International Certificate for Health Examination for Small Animals (7001 USDA-APHIS Form) be issued by that veterinarian andendorsed by the USDA. 

Before considering traveling with a pet, owners should consult their veterinary practice and see if any veterinarians there have experience providing documentation for international travel. It is also important to check with your local USDA Service Center to ensure that your veterinarian is USDA accredited. If they are not endorsed by the USDA, the paperwork they provide will not be valid.

The timetable for examination statements and certifications can be very tight, so owners should plan well in advance and ask questions of the relevant authorities to be sure all required paperwork is complete in time for your trip.

In addition to submitting required paperwork to the relevant agencies, owners may also want to keep paper copies of this documentation on-hand during their travel.

“Have a digital or hard copy of your pet’s vaccination history (including rabies certificate), microchip number, medications, and health records, if they have chronic illnesses or have had major surgeries,” Rutter said. “Ask your veterinarian what records she/he recommends you take with you in case your family vet’s office is closed (if they are needed while you’re abroad).”

You may also need to get your pet a rabies vaccine booster and/or have rabies antibody titers checked prior to traveling to a country considered to be high-risk for rabies. Although the U.S. recognizes three-year rabies vaccinations, some countries require annual rabies immunization.

Foreign nations may also require a quarantine period after your arrival. It’s best to check with the local government prior to your arrival to avoid any unwanted surprises.

For a long international flight, it’s also a good idea to have your veterinarian perform a check-up to confirm your pet is healthy enough to fly, and while there, you may consider asking about medication that may help your furry friend during the stress of travel.

“If your pet struggles with anxiety or motion sickness, ask your veterinarian how to best manage your pet’s needs during travel,” Rutter said. “This is probably a needed conversation if your pet has never traveled before or if your pet has fireworks phobia.”

Owners should also research the different facilities they will be stopping at on their journey to see what amenities are offered for pets, especially in terms of their bathroom needs.

“Most airports have a ‘pet relief’ area, and many have one in the air-side terminal. Do a little cyber-sleuthing or ask an airline representative where to find it. Nervous bladders may need to ‘go’ a bit more often, and a walk is good to settle the mind,” Rutter said. “Be sure your pet wears a collar or harness with a tag at all times while traveling in case of escapes. Outside of their normal environments, pets can become fearful or excited and bolt.”

Rutter also recommends having pet necessities on-hand for the duration of your travel.

“Carry waste bags, water, time-sensitive medications, and at least a small portion of your pet’s food on hand,” she said. “I also carry a cheap set of medical exam gloves (purchased over the counter) in case things get messy.”

It is also important to ensure that the appropriate arrangements have been made to accommodate your pet. Confirm with your lodging that animals are allowed, research nearby veterinary care facilities you can contact in case your pet has an emergency while on your trip, and have a plan for either bringing needed pet supplies with you or confirming that nearby stores carry the essentials your pet needs.

“If you have activities planned during your trip, can your pet go with you or stay at your lodging location unattended? Many hotels and rentals will allow your pets to stay with you but do not allow pets to stay unattended while you are away,” Rutter said.

It may also be beneficial to research the local cultural attitudes surrounding pets. Some countries may be more lenient about allowing pets in public areas than others.

Taking a pet abroad is a considerable endeavor, and it’s important to do ample research and plan in advance to avoid unwanted surprises and ensure your animal’s well-being. With the help of an experienced veterinarian and the right preparations, owners can determine the best option for their pet as they embark on their next adventure.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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