International travel with a pet
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
As veterinarians with official accreditation through the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, we are sometimes asked to help owners get their pets ready for international travel. This means a pet will need an international health certificate specific for the destination country and the paperwork needed to get the pet on the airplane.
While we are happy to help owners with the process, an owner can streamline this by first visiting the updated website developed by the USDA
aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel. This user friendly site lets owners choose the country they are going to and what pets they plan to bring.
Many pet owners do not know that it can take months in some cases to fulfill all the requirements for a pet’s international travel. The USDA site has a useful, printable checklist that has places for an owner to fill in information as they obtain it. Dogs and cats will often need a microchip for identification.
Some countries — such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Japan — are considered rabies-free. To keep rabies out, these countries will require multiple rabies vaccines, a blood level test for rabies antibodies, and specific waiting periods before entering the country. Some wait periods are many months long. There may even be quarantine times for the pet at the destination.
Vaccinations other than rabies may also need to be documented. Sometimes owners present ill pets to their veterinarian in the hopes of getting the pets vaccinated. In these cases where the vaccine cannot be given, the owner’s schedule for travel may be jeopardized.
Some countries require treatments, topical or oral, for parasites either before the pet leaves for the trip or at the destination country.
For the actual health certificate to be filled out, your veterinarian will need to perform a physical exam. The exam will need to be done within a certain time before the trip, and the certificate is only good for a limited time. Most countries require that the completed form be submitted to the local USDA office for endorsement. This means the paperwork would have to travel to Madison and back in time for the trip.
Owners will also want to check with the airline well ahead of time. Some airlines will only accept pets as cargo for longer flights and will not allow them in the cabin. If an owner has multiple pets, they may need multiple travelers since some countries only allow one pet per traveler. Since travel is stressful for pets, you will only want a healthy pet to make the trip, so those with chronic diseases may need to stay home.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.