Jan 9, 2017

Traveling internationally with my dog - easier than people.

I was asked to write a post about the kind of experiences I had traveling with my dog, and well, there have been so many that I'm eager to share!

Most people ask me firstly: Is it difficult traveling with a dog?
My reply? "is it difficult to travel with children?"
The short answer is yes, but people still do it to my bewilderment.
The good news is, traveling with a dog is a LOT easier than traveling with people, and if you have a dog that weighs less than 15lbs, it's even easier.

My dog's name is Doger. He is 5.5 years old. I got him on Kijiji at 8 weeks old, I picked him specifically because of his look and his size. I wanted a small pet that I could travel with... It took a LOT of training, but in the end he's the best travel companion I could have ever asked for.

He went on his first international trip at 6 months old. He was fixed and microchipped before hand, of course, and this is actually one of the requirements to travel to certain countries.

In order to travel with a pet, you are required to do anywhere from 5 - 7 different vaccinations (depending on your country and the country you will be visiting). Some countries require a rabies titer test which is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. Coming from Canada/USA usually this is unnecessary, but not always. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GO especially because travel preparation can be 2-6 months.  We are always traveling, so I just do everything annually.

Doger requires 7 vaccines to travel. Rabies is 100% mandatory no matter where you go, you cannot even return to the country if you have not had this vaccine.

Leptospirosis vaccination is required for Southeast Asia, not every country requires it but always check online to make sure you're not missing anything.  We travel to Thailand often so I always get this vaccine.  It requires 2 vaccinations, so plan ahead.

The rabies vaccine in Canada is good for 3 years, but not all countries recognize this as valid, so if you're planning a trip make sure to have a rabies vaccine within the year to prevent any trouble at the border!

Once you're shots and deworming etc. is all up to date, you have to get your vet to fill out an international travel form which must be validated at the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) check out the website and call for the office nearest you.  It's 20-40$ to get those documents stamped, you don't need your pet with you.

In the EU, all pets require a pet passport which is quite expensive and a lengthy process, but has a record of the pets entire medical history and is a legal travel document accepted internationally.
No other countries (outside of the EU) have anything like this as far as I know.

One source I can recommend in the meantime is this website http://www.pettravelstore.com/categories/Pet-Passports/ but if you don't want to pay, try to visit your local Food/Animal inspection agency or export office for the needed paperwork, as they usually give it away for free. OR EVEN ASK YOUR VET!

NOW you've done the paperwork! You have all that you need! All that you need to do now is get your pet on the plane!

I personally do not encourage people to travel with their pets in cargo, as it can be dangerous and traumatizing for the pet, but if you have NO CHOICE and MUST take your pet, then ok, make sure you DO NOT give your pet ANY food or water before your travel time to avoid accidents/vomiting etc.
While traveling, it is NOT advised that you sedate your pets, because this can lower their BP to the point where hypothermia on the cold aircraft would be easy to get, and your pet might never wake up from that.

If you're like me and have a little guy to travel with, you must have a soft sided carrier that fits within the airlines specifications to fit under the seat in front of you. 10 lbs animals will fit the most comfortably.

SHERPA makes the best travel carriers that I"m aware, and they are all great for traveling and within airline specs. You can find these on Amazon for a better price than a pet store.

Next step: CONTACT THE AIRLINE.  You cannot just bring a pet, you have to give plenty of notice as most airlines have a maximum 2 animal per a/c rule, and you'll have to pay for your pet in cabin or cargo.  Cargo can get pricey, but in cabin costs usually 50-100$ (United Airlines is 250$ US which is quite high, but they also allow companion animals onboard at no cost with advance notice and a doctors note. Call for more information.)

Now remember: NOT EVERY AIRLINE allows pets.  Most do, but NOT ALL. You will have to check in advance before booking your flight, and make 100% sure you can bring your pet with you.

I have also had experiences in the past where and Airline will claim they accept pets, but then encounter issues upon boarding.

Example: EgyptAir has a pet allowance but is very confused when people actually show up with one. I had a flight with them and had no issues until I got to my Egypt flight transfer, and spent 2 and a half hours in a small boring waiting room for them to confirm the paperwork I had already sent ahead of time.

ANA is the WORST. I flew once with them and spent 3 hours in a room waiting for the approval, and finally was given the approval once they confirmed I had contacted them ahead of time.

I tried a SECOND time with ANA, making doubly sure that they were clear I had an animal, and phoned TWICE to both USA and Japan offices.
Once I transferred to board the ANA flight a rep pulled me aside and I quote, VERBATUM:

"We NEVER allow animals on board, not even service animals. WE LIE. If you call and ask to book a flight and say you have an animal, we will LIE and tell you the flight is full. I have been working at this airline for 30 years and for the last 5 years we have not had a single pet on board our flights. This is just a mistake."

The ass hat literally told me the airline LIES to avoid LEGAL TRANSPORTATION LAWS about SERVICE ANIMALS! This shocked the HELL out of me, but explained why everyone was always so confused (because I kept pulling out the page PRINTED FROM THEIR WEBSITE about the animal policies every time someone said no...)  SO
in short - NEVER fly ANA with a pet. Actually, just never fly ANA for any reason. They are liars with bad morals.

Moral of the story: check before hand about airline policies and make sure you're CLEAR before travel. Otherwise, you could end up with major delays or even missing flights/flight changes that you never wanted.

Next step: Prepare your pet!

When you're going on a flight more than 2-3 hours, you want to help your pet avoid discomfort.  This means NO FOOD OR WATER BEFORE TRAVEL.  Depending on the size of your pet, and the size of their bladder, you shouldn't give them anything to avoid discomfort or accidents enroute.

My little guy started his training young, and he's a miracle. He can make it 27 hours without any issues.  In order to make it however, this means NO FOOD OR WATER THE NIGHT BEFORE OUR TRIP. In the morning I give him NOTHING. Not a drop.
On board once I'm more than 1/2 way, I'll let him have the equivalent of a teaspoon of water to wet his whistle, but no food. Not unless he's getting medication, then it's a pill pocket with meds.

If we have 2 hours stopover or longer then I usually have time to take him out through security for a quick pee, which lightens the load, but sometimes we just don't have time as we're running from one flight to the next, so keep that in mind that as you're sitting there eating and peeing like normal, your little one may be suffering. Plan ahead, and don't give in to pity.

All in all, that's about the most important part about pet travel, and the most tedious.

Finding hotels and places that are pet friendly is pretty easy.  The internet is a magic tool to find everything you need.  Make sure to do pet friendly filter on your hotel booking websites, and read policies on airlines. There are very few countries you'll have trouble with while traveling with your pets.  Islands like GB, Australia, NZ, and Hawaii as well as China/Hong Kong have quarantines that make it not worth your while, but for the most part traveling with your fur baby is easy peasy and it's nice to have a companion with you on your journey.

Good luck!

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