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Top tips for preparing your dog or cat for international pet travel

International pet transport is an adventure by itself. There are so many steps in the process – the documentation, vaccinations, health tests, and so on – that it is easy to lose sight of your pet in the flurry of paperwork. Preparing your pet for air travel is very important and will ensure your pet has a comfortable pet travel experience. Read on for what you can do to prepare your pet for his or her next big adventure.

Talk to the vet

The first thing to do while preparing your pet for air travel is to talk to the vet about the general health of your pet dog or cat. Your vet will give you a clear picture of your pet’s health and partner with you in ensuring your pet is at optimum health before travel. Talk to the vet if your pet is obese or has other health complications that need medical intervention.

Your vet will administer the necessary vaccinations and health tests required by the country of travel. The vet will also implant the ISO-compliant microchip in your pet. Many countries insist on an external and internal parasite treatment before travelling. Speak to your vet about the best treatment options for your pet.

Take your pet for a grooming session before the flight; clip long nails to prevent scratching and trim long and unruly hair to make it more comfortable for your pet during travel.

Crate and crate training

Crate training is perhaps the most important preparation your pet will need before travelling. Their travel crate should be IATA-compliant and be big enough for your pet dog or cat to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably.

Begin crate training as early as possible to teach your pet to associate the crate with a happy and safe place. Start gradually with a few minutes per session until your pet can sleep overnight in the crate comfortably. During the flight, your pet dog or cat has to spend long hours inside the crate. Crate training helps your pet overcome the anxiety of being in a new and unknown place, surrounded by strangers.

Pet dogs and cats travel in a pressurised and temperature-controlled area of the cargo hold of the aeroplane. Your pet will not travel with the baggage and their crates will be secured to the aircraft to prevent tumbling or movement.

Start socialising your pet

Some pets are shy and timid, and do not react well to change, and a long-distance international flight could be very stressful. You can help your pet cope better by developing his or her socialisation skills and ensuring that they are comfortable in new and unknown situations.

Take your pet dog to the dog park, dog-friendly restaurants, or to the doggy daycare often; being comfortable around other dogs and strangers will help your pet cope with the stress during travel better. Take your pet on road trips to see how he or she reacts to the sound and the movement of the car. With positive feedback and reassurance, your pet can learn to be comfortable in a crate in a moving vehicle.

Ensure that your pet is comfortable around loud noises because airports can be busy and overwhelming for pets. Try taking your pet to crowded public places to acclimatise him or her to noises and large crowds. Introducing your pet to new environments and situations consistently and often will ensure that your pet will stay calm and relaxed during the flight and while in transit.

Your pet will be handled by the pet relocation company team, pet hotel staff and airline staff during travel. It is imperative that he or she is comfortable with strangers. If your pet is extremely shy or aggressive with strangers, partner with a pet behaviour specialist to work on these traits before travelling.

Some pets may display severe separation anxiety; a pet behaviour specialist can help your pet overcome their anxieties before travel. 

Tranquilisers and sedatives are not recommended

Dogs and cats react adversely to sedatives at high altitudes; vets do not recommend the use of sedatives during a flight. Both dogs and cats are known to suffer from respiratory distress if they are sedated during the flight. If you think your pet is highly excitable and uncomfortable in strange environments, spraying the crate with calming lavender oil or a pheromone spray may help reduce anxiety in such situations.

Your supplies checklist

Line your pet’s crate with his or her favourite blanket and throw in a t-shirt or an old sock that smells like you to comfort your pet. The blanket might be discarded by airline, customs or quarantine officials; do not pack an expensive or sentimental item. Toys can accompany your pet to the pet hotel but are not allowed on the flight.

Your pet will not be allowed to wear a collar or a harness during the flight because they are considered choking hazards. Instead, attach a lead and a collar to the crate to use after disembarking. Make sure your pet’s name tag is attached to the collar for identification purposes.

Your pet relocation partner will make sure all the right paperwork and identification stickers are placed on the crate. For fussy pets, provide a small packet of dry food along with any necessary medication to the pet relocation service for your pet to eat before travel and during any scheduled transit stops. Medication can be administered before departure, during comfort stops, and upon arrival, but not in-flight.

Make sure your pet is well hydrated 48 hours before the day of travel. During the travel, your pet will have access to water in the pet hotel, in the travel crate while flying, and during transit stops.

The day of travel

On the day of travel, take your dog for a long walk or run so he or she can expend as much energy as possible. Remember to feed your pet dog or cat no more than six hours before the flight. Flying on a full stomach is not recommended; feed your pet a little less than usual on the day of the flight. A water bowl will be attached to the crate door and filled before the flight and during transit stopovers. You can also freeze water in the bowl or add a chunk of ice during warmer temperatures.

Pets can pick up your moods and anxieties easily; it is vital for you to keep calm and relaxed on the day of travel. If you are calm and collected, your pet will embark on this adventure in a comfortable frame of mind.

Call the international pet travel experts

If you are planning to relocate to a different country with your pet, it is recommended to use a professional pet relocation service to help you with the move and ensure your pet travels safely and is approved to enter their destination country. Reach out to us at Petraveller for a detailed pet travel plan and answers to any other questions on international pet relocation.