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Traveling in the COVID Variant Era: 5 Tips for International Travel with Your Pup


Written by Aurus Sy

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 10/15/2021, edited: 10/15/2021


With just over a month to go before Thanksgiving, you may be thinking about spending the long weekend in another country — and bringing your canine companion with you. Flying with dogs has never really been a walk in the park, but now, in the COVID variant era, there are more rules and regulations to follow.

Although you may have to jump through a few extra hoops, it’s still possible to travel abroad with your four-legged pal. Here are five tips to keep in mind if you’re planning to fly overseas with Fido this Thanksgiving.

Research export and import requirements

When taking your dog from the United States to a foreign country (export), you'll usually need to meet animal health requirements specific to that destination. Because the details vary for each country and often change, it’s important to verify them every time you plan to travel with your pup.

You can check your destination country’s current requirements on the United States Department of Agriculture website. Then, contact your vet as soon as possible to make sure your dog gets their health certificate, vaccinations, and other requirements on time.

Special requirements may also apply when bringing your dog into the United States from a foreign country (import), especially if you and Fido are coming from a country where rabies, screwworm, and foot-and-mouth disease are endemic. Some states may have their own import requirements as well.

It’s important to note that, beginning July 14, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is temporarily suspending dog imports from countries that are considered high risk for canine rabies. This includes US dogs who are returning to the United States from any high-risk country. The only exemptions are canines with CDC Dog Import Permits, though these are being issued on an extremely limited basis.

For more information, check out these resources:

Check your airline’s requirements

Aside from export and import requirements, airlines have separate policies that globetrotting pooches must adhere to. Since different airlines have different rules about traveling with pets, and some have temporarily paused accepting checked pets, be sure to confirm everything with your airline before you book your flight. But in general:

  • Dogs must be at least four months old to go on international flights.
  • Dogs who are traveling in the cabin must stay in their approved carrier for the duration of the flight. The carrier must fit completely under the seat in front of their human companion. 
  • Dogs who don’t fit in carriers under seats are transported as cargo in the hold or on a separate flight. 
  • Some airlines do not allow brachycephalic breeds on their flights.
  • There's a limit on the number of pets a person can travel with (two for most airlines). 

Be sure to get your pup used to their carrier before the big day so that they’ll feel safe and comfortable during the flight.

Additionally, check what health information your airline requires from human passengers. Many airlines have an app where you can upload your health documents and check in touch-free. When traveling, always carry a copy of your and Fido’s records with you.

Follow CDC recommendations

Because international travel poses additional risks, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated before traveling out of the country. Still, even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and potentially spreading new COVID-19 variants. 

For both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, it's mandatory to wear a mask on planes and other forms of public transportation while traveling into, within, and out of the United States, as well as at airports and other indoor transportation hubs. Remember to familiarize yourself with your destination country’s requirements, which may be different from those in the US. 

If you’re not vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting tested 1 to 3 days before your trip, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and washing your hands regularly or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Keep your dog safe

A small number of companion animals worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people who tested positive for the virus. To protect your pup while traveling, don't let other people touch or interact with them as much as possible. If you’re planning to visit some canine-friendly spots with your dog, work out your itinerary in advance to avoid peak hours.

Both the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Association advise against putting a mask on your dog as it can cause distress and difficulty breathing. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, and there's no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from the skin or fur of pets. Alcohol, hand sanitizer, and other products should not be used on your dog.

Consider other options

As mentioned above, some airlines are currently only accepting in-cabin pets. This means that, for bigger dogs who have to be transported in the hold, air travel may not be in the cards for now.

If you need to travel and leave your furry friend behind, consider arranging overnight care such as dog sitting or boarding. This may be a better option for your pup, as they'll get to stay in a comfy home environment and avoid the stresses of international travel.

To help keep everyone in your pack safe and healthy this holiday season, check out our COVID-19 resource center

If you can and do decide to travel with your dog, consider getting pet insurance before you and Fido jet off to your destination. Though most of the pets who have been infected with COVID-19 only had mild illness and fully recovered, it's always better to be safe than sorry. When you insure your pet, you’ll have protection from unexpected vet costs. Start comparing pet insurance companies today to find the right match for your mutt.

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