Bringing Your Pet Along for the Trip

2023-01-30 10:45:04 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

To prevent the spread of dog rabies, the CDC will continue to enforce its current rules and requirements for the temporary suspension of dogs from high-risk countries until June 10, 2022. Beginning on this date, new regulations will be in effect.

photo of a dog on an airplane

Photo by Audilis Sanchez, courtesy of the CDC

Bringing your pet animal with you on an international flight When traveling internationally or back to the United States, it is essential to have all of your pet's paperwork on hand. If your pet needs vaccinations or a health certificate, make sure to get those things taken care of well in advance of your trip. Don't forget to get the ball rolling promptly.

A visit to the veterinarian is a must right off the bat.

Tell your vet as soon as possible if you plan on taking an international trip. You can check together that your pet is fit to travel and that it satisfies the regulations of both your final destination and the United States. It's possible that certain conditions will be necessary, such as

  • Diagnosis through blood samples
  • Vaccinations
  • Identification microchips
  • Permits
  • Medical records

It is important to research the specific requirements of your airline and destination country.

Determine the requirements for transporting your pet by air.

photo of a veterinarian with a dog

Visit your veterinarian to discuss your dog's rabies vaccination and upcoming travels. Credit for the photograph goes to CDC's David Heaberlin.

If you want to have a successful trip, you need to prepare in advance. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website of the United States Department of Agriculture is a great place to start researching pet travel.


When and how pets are allowed to travel on an airplane varies by airline. Your pet may be able to fly with you in the cabin or the cargo hold, depending on the policy of your chosen airline. Make sure to check with your airline in advance on this.

Small dogs and cats that can be carried in under-the-seat carriers are permitted on airlines that transport pets. In the event of a delay, their owners are responsible for providing care. Some airlines might not let them in the cabin but would still transport them in a climate-controlled cargo hold. The International Air Transport Association suggests that this is a more conducive environment for cats and dogs to travel in and rest since it is quieter and darker.

photo of a woman walking through airport with a dog

Find out what preparations must be made to fly with your pet. Misty Ellis of the CDC took the picture.

You can also send your pet as air cargo on a separate flight. You should acclimate your dog to the shipping kennel in advance if you plan to use one, if your dog is particularly large, or if the laws of the country to which you are traveling require it. Lock the door tightly to prevent any mishaps during transport. If you're unsure of when to give your pet food and water, ask your vet for recommendations. You will need to make arrangements for pickup at the destination airport if your pet is being shipped as air cargo.

In the Northern Hemisphere, May through September are the hottest months for shipping pets, so some U.S. carriers don't allow pet shipments during those months. When taking a pet on a plane, safety is always a concern, no matter the time of year. If a pet must travel as cargo, it must be housed in a secure container that allows it to stand, sit, turn around easily while standing, and lie down comfortably. Pet owners should check out the USDA's travel resources page for more details.

Waiting for a connecting flight may require you to care for a pet in the cabin while the airline or ground handlers tend to a pet in cargo. Determine in advance what documentation is needed by contacting your airline(s).

Think About Your Pet's Relaxation

photo of a woman checking arrivals and departures screen

Think about how your pet will feel during the trip. Misty Ellis of the CDC took this picture.

The act of loading and unloading is often the most traumatic part of transportation for animals. Remember these suggestions:

  • Acclimate your pet to its carrier well in advance of the flight.
  • Spend your money on flights with fewer stops and fewer connections.
  • Schedule your trips so that you don't have to endure the heat or cold. Rather than bringing your pet with you during the day, it may be safer to travel there at night if you're going somewhere extremely hot.
  • Talk to your pet's vet. The International Air Transport Association warns against administering tranquilizers or sedatives to animals before or during flights because of the risk of injury.
  • Before leaving the house and again right before check-in, give your pet a walk.
  • Check in as late as possible if your pet is allowed in the cabin to lessen their anxiety.
  • It's important to check in early if you're sending a pet as cargo, so that it can be taken to the plane's hold, where it will be safe from any disturbances.

Oceanic itineraries and cruise ships

It is the passenger's responsibility to check with their specific cruise line for the specifics of their ship's policy on bringing pets and service animals on board. Ensure this with your cruise line in advance. To enter or re-enter the United States with a pet after an international trip on a cruise ship or other maritime vessel, you must comply with federal entry requirements. A reminder that the CDC has put a temporary halt on importing dogs from countries with a high risk of dog rabies, including recent visitors' pets.

Canine Travel Requirements Abroad

Leaving the United States with your dog is not subject to any regulations set by the CDC. On the other hand, if you intend to bring your dog back into the country, it will need to meet the same entry requirements as dogs coming from other countries (see below). Due to the current temporary suspension, U.S. citizens who take their dogs to countries with a high risk of dog rabies may not be able to bring their pets back into the country. which includes domestic dogs in the United States that have visited countries with a high risk of transmitting rabies.

If you want to know what documents your pet needs to enter a foreign country, you can check the USDA website.

Standards for Imported Dogs in the U.S.

A CDC public health officer checks the rabies vaccination certificate of a dog in a kennel just arrived into the United States. Photo credit to Derek Sakris, CDC.

Acquire the necessary documentation for importing a dog into the USA. Picture courtesy of CDC's Derek Sakris.

To enter or reenter the United States, canines must demonstrate good health. Dogs imported from countries with a high risk of canine rabies, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are temporarily banned from entry.

Inoculations and medical documentation are sometimes necessary in certain states. Before leaving on your trip, make sure to contact the state's health department in your destination.

If you want to take your dog with you on a plane, you should research which breeds are allowed on airlines, as well as which cities and states have laws against bringing pets.

Some dogs entering the United States, including working dogs and dogs destined for resale or adoption, are subject to additional regulations set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Import Requirements for Cats Coming to the U.S.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not require proof of rabies vaccination for cats entering the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all cats get a rabies vaccination, but most states and many other countries require it. If you plan on taking your pet with you on your trip, you should consult with your veterinarian about the destination's pet travel regulations.

Different Pets

Different rules may apply to pets that aren't canines or felines. The United States will not accept the return of certain animals, including primates (monkeys and apes) and rodents from Africa. Pets from other countries are not allowed in the United States, regardless of where they were originally from.

photo of a dog at the beach

With proper preparation, your pet can enjoy the trip without incident. Acknowledgement to Audilis Sanchez, CDC, for the use of their photograph

Companion Animal Illness or Death on the Road

Sometimes, even with the best of care, animals traveling by air end up ill or even dead. A public health official's duty is to confirm that a dead animal wasn't a carrier of a disease that could be transmitted to humans. It's possible that they'll need to perform an animal autopsy or other tests, at your expense, to determine what happened. When testing an animal, its remains are typically not returned to the owner.

Consider All Your Alternatives

Check that your animal is in good enough health to fly. If you have any reservations, you should leave your pet with a friend, relative, or boarding facility during your trip.

You can ensure your pet's safe travel to its destination and back home with some advance preparation.

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