How to Prepare for International Pet Shipping

Adaeze Nwakaeze Adaeze Nwakaeze · Updated April 29, 2024

Moving abroad can be both exciting and stressful. On the one hand, you’re finally getting to experience a new culture, learn a language, or have some much-needed adventure. But on the other hand, you have to consider all the details of moving, including international pet shipping. Fortunately, transporting your animal companion overseas is entirely doable and doesn’t have to be a hassle. It just takes some preparation and forethought — why not leave that work to the pros? Starwood Pet Travel is the #1 international pet relocation service in the country. They’ll work with you every step of the way, ensuring you book the best flights, comply with all foreign pet permits, quarantine requirements and vaccines, and provide stellar customer service.

There’s no alternative to Starwood when it comes to international pet transportation. Whether or not you choose to work with a professional pet relocation company, it’s important to know the ins and outs of international pet transport. Our comprehensive guide will make your travel preparation easy. We’ll explain everything from the required paperwork and vaccinations to important pet transport regulations.

International Pet Shipping Checklist — All You Need to Know

Due to the complexities of international pet shipping, here’s a checklist to make sure you don’t forget any important details:

#1. Research the Regulations of Your Destination Country

You’re indeed eager to get your pet on its way. But before you do anything else, look into the rules and regulations of your pet’s destination country. Make sure that the destination country allows pets. What kind of pets do they allow to enter? What documents do they require? This is very important since every country has its own laws when it comes to importing animals. For example, some countries require a valid import permit and quarantine period upon arrival. If you’re flying your pet into the US, you’ll need to provide proof of an approved rabies vaccine. You’ll also need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and a valid microchip number. However, there is currently a temporary suspension on bringing dogs from high-risk countries into the United States. Knowing the destination country’s regulations will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises upon arrival.

#2. Get Your Paperwork in Order

The last thing you want is for your pet’s flight to be delayed or canceled due to a missing document. Get all the necessary forms and documents together early on so you can complete them quickly. The exact forms you will need depend on the destination country. Common documents include a pet health certificate, an import permit, and a rabies titer test. Your vet can help you with this process. Plus, it’s a good idea to bring extra copies of the documents in emergencies. Here are some paperwork tips to remember:

  • Make sure your veterinarian signs all relevant documents.
  • Double-check that the information is up-to-date and complete.
  • Make sure all forms, like import permits, are signed by the authorities in the destination country.
  • Keep copies of all paperwork for future reference.

Take your pet to the vet in preparation for international pet shipping.

#3. Schedule an Appointment with Your Vet

Take your pet to the vet for a thorough health check-up, at least a month before the planned departure date. They will run several tests and update your pet’s vaccines to meet the destination country’s requirements.

  • These may include a rabies titer test, as well as proof of deworming, and flea and tick treatments.
  • After the tests, the veterinarian must sign a health certificate — Certificate of Veterinary Inspection — verifying that your pet is healthy and fit to fly.
  • This certificate may have an expiration date of up to 10 to 30 days before your pet’s arrival.
  • The length of time depends on the destination country.
  • As an international travel document, a USDA-certified veterinarian must issue the certificate.
  • The USDA must endorse the certificate afterwards.
  • Your vet will likewise provide you with vaccination certificates and records necessary for your trip.

#4. Crate-Training Your Pet

Getting used to their travel crate is one of the most important steps in the international pet shipping process. You want your pet to feel comfortable and safe inside their crate. Start introducing them to the crate several weeks before their flight. Acclimate your pet by placing treats and toys in the crate or letting them nap in it. Remember, air travel regulations for international pet shipping require that all cats and dogs must be in an approved traveling crate. Try to get your pet used to the crate before their flight.

#5. Microchip Your Pet

Most countries require pets to be microchipped. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to do it before they travel. The microchip contains the information you need to identify your pet, including their name, breed, age and contact details. Ask your vet for an ISO-compliant microchip. This is the most widely accepted type and can be read by scanners in many countries. While not all countries require it, having your pet microchipped increases their chances of being safely returned to you in case of an emergency.

What to Know Before Transporting Your Pet To Another Country

Apart from the documents you need to prepare and the vet appointment, there are several other things to keep in mind regarding international pet shipping. Transportation cost is one of the most important factors to consider. You will need to pay for a flight ticket, travel crate and vet fees. All these can add up quickly, so be sure to factor that into your budget. Besides, you may be required to book your pet’s flight with a pet transport company since many airlines do not permit direct booking, so keep that in mind. Finally, stay organized, follow the guidelines, get a cost estimate and keep all documents in hand to ensure a smooth process from start to finish.

International Pet Shipping: What Are My Options?

International pet travel involves considerable distances — usually across borders or oceans. Though it’s not a simple process, it can be done — and with the right preparation and guidance, your pet can make the trip safely. Most of the time, international pet shipping involves air travel. Depending on your destination, you can choose from several different possibilities:

#1. Air Travel

This is usually the fastest and most convenient way to transport your pet internationally. Most airlines accept cats and dogs on board, provided they meet size and weight restrictions. Air travel, however, can be stressful for animals. Make sure to pick an airline with the most comfortable, least stressful flight possible. Air travel also involves much paperwork, from booking the flight to filling out the necessary documents — so make sure to plan ahead. We recommend that you start your pet’s international shipping process at least three months before your planned departure. This enables you to take your pet to the vet and get all the necessary vaccinations and paperwork done in time. Also, check out airline policies for pet travel, as each airline may have different requirements and restrictions. Ultimately, ensure your pet meets IATA-approved travel crate requirements as dictated by the airline. This is necessary to guarantee their safety and comfort throughout their journey. When it comes to flying your pet abroad, you have two options. You can take your pet on board with you in the cabin or transport them in the cargo hold of the plane.

Flying In-Cabin

  • If your pet is between 20 to 40 pounds and can fit comfortably in an approved pet carrier that’s stowed under the seat in front of you, they can fly in the cabin with you.
  • This is usually the most comfortable and stress-free option for both you and your pet.
  • This flying method is best for cats and small dog breeds like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians.
  • Even though your pet can stay under a seat, most airlines charge additional fees for in-cabin pet transport, so double-check before booking your flight.

Transporting in the Cargo Hold

  • Cargo shipping is the only option for larger pets.
  • The cargo hold is pressurized, temperature-controlled and accessible only to airline personnel, so your pet can travel comfortably and safely.
  • However, flying your pet as cargo can be more expensive and stressful than flying them in the cabin.
  • This is because they will be out of sight for the duration of the flight.
  • For this reason, it’s crucial to ensure your pet is in the best possible condition before they depart.
  • Make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations, have plenty of water and food available, and let them get used to the crate before traveling.

Flying With Air Nannies

So, what if you are not traveling with your pet but need them to have the same level of care they would have if they were with you? That’s where air nannies come in.

  • Air nannies are pet transportation professionals who take your pet on board the plane and care for them in flight.
  • They provide personalized attention to your pet during the flight.
  • Tasks include feeding and potty breaks in the terminal’s designated pet areas and giving medications and other treatments if needed.

Where to Find International Pet Transportation

You’re not alone. More than 4 million pets are flown across the world every year. With the right preparation, you can make your pet’s international travel as smooth as possible. That’s why partnering with an experienced international pet transportation like Starwood Pet Travel. What’s great about Starwood is that they’ll coordinate every aspect of the transport, from making sure all of your paperwork is in order to booking the flight.


International pet shipping can be daunting and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With adequate preparation, your pet can have a safe and stress-free journey. Once you know how to prepare for your pet’s international travel, you can explore the many transport options available — from airlines to ground transport. And when you need an extra helping hand, you can always rely on pet transporters using CitizenShipper to take care of your furry family member. So, let your beloved pet have the adventure of a lifetime! Post a free listing on CitizenShipper today and get multiple quotes right away through our competitive bidding system.