Traveling with your pet can be stressful, but as long as you do your research and have everything in order it should all go smoothly.
I love to travel and especially enjoy exploring a new place with my dogs. So when we planned to spend three months in France there was no question whether or not Bodhi, our Havanese, would be coming with us. (Lola didn’t join the family until later). Getting him into France and taking him all over Italy and Spain was a breeze. He was living his best doggy life tasting cheese at the markets and sunbathing in the garden overlooking vineyards. Of course when we made our way to Mexico he was still right there with us...
Here are my 10 tips for moving abroad with your dog:
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Different countries will have different requirements, so make sure you do your research and have all necessary documents for the country you are traveling to. This can include translation of health certificates that may need to be notarized at a foreign consulate in your home country.
This was the case when we traveled to France, however traveling to Mexico has been easier and requires less paperwork. The United States Department of Agriculture is a great place to start researching as they provide a list of countries and specific pet export requirements as well as pet travel tips, including animal import regulations for all 50 states.
If flying, you will want to check with your airline to confirm their requirements ahead of time.
2. CONTACT YOUR VET
Once you have a list of all of your requirements, which will include an updated rabies vaccine and a health certificate, start setting up appointments with your vet. The rabies vaccine should be done at least 30 days prior to departure, but the health certificate needs to be issued within 10 days of travel, so you will likely need to make multiple appointments if vaccinations aren’t current.
Generally, any licensed veterinarian can issue health certificates for pets, but some countries require APHIS endorsement. If this is the case you will need to make sure your veterinarian is USDA Accredited.
3. GET AN AIRLINE APPROVED CARRIER
Make sure you have an authorized carrier that will meet the airlines requirements. For small dogs, I love the Sleepy Pod Air as it gives your pet the maximum amount of space they can have and makes a great, secure car seat. It also can be unzipped and laid flat for easy storage.
You will want to get your dog used to being in this carrier several weeks prior to travel and create a positive association. I like to leave the carrier open on the ground and throughout the day put treats in it so that my dog would go in on his own to get the treats. You will also want to practice carrying your pet it in, and make sure to give lots of treats and praise.
4. PURCHASE TRAINING PADS
On longer flights, or if you have a layover, it is helpful to bring training pads in case your dog needs to relieve himself while you are stuck in the airport, or Belly Bands if you have a male dog that likes to mark.
5. MAKE COPIES OF ALL YOUR DOCUMENTS
The airline will want to see the original and will need their own copy as well. It helps to bring multiple copies with you so that you don’t get held up at the check-in counter while they have to go and make their own copies and then again when you arrive at your destination.
6. ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT EARLY
Give yourself plenty of time for check-in and to make sure you have time to take your pup to go to the bathroom before it’s time for boarding. Some airports, such as LAX, actually have indoor pet relieving stations. For other airports we like to check our bags and then head back outside the airport to a grassy area for a little walk and plenty of time for them to do their business before going through security.
7. DON'T FEED FOR 6 HOURS BEFORE FLYING
Don’t feed them within 6 hours of flying. Your pup will already be a little nervous, and if he becomes nauseous, he will be even more stressed. Do keep water available for him though. Have food and water ready for your pet for when you land. Most authorities will allow you to import a reasonable amount of dry food for your pet and you will want to have enough to hold him over until you are able to get to a pet store and buy more. As soon as we get through customs I take them to a grassy area outside the airport and then feed them.
8. DO NOT SEDATE YOUR PET
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), sedating cats or dogs during air travel may increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. There are more natural options for helping your pet stay calm during travel. The Bach Rescue Remedy is a safe and effective homeopathic remedy. Or try a Thundershirt, which is a tightly fitting “shirt” that wraps around your dog and gives a feeling of continuous pressure to help calm a dog’s nerves. These are both great options leading up to travel if your dog starts getting nervous while you're packing up your home, or even if you are traveling by car.
9. FIND A FACEBOOK GROUP OR LIST SERVE
Now that you've made the move with your beloved pet, check to see if your new town has a list serve where you can ask questions and get recommendations from your new community. Here in San Miguel, there are multiple Facebook groups, and this is a great place to ask for information about vets, groomers, and the best places to walk and socialize your pup.
10. CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE PET FOOD OPTIONS
You might find that you aren't able to find the same pet food you bought in the US. For example, we loved feeding Bodhi Primal Freeze Dried Nuggets because he is a sensitive little guy with digestive issues. After trying a few different options, he did best with this food. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find anything comparable in either France or Mexico. The natural pet food that we did find in Mexico is quite expensive. Now with two dogs, we found it was a better value to make their food. So now we have our housekeeper make food weekly and make sure they are getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need.