Travelling with our Furry Companions (Part 2)

Are you planning travelling with your pet abroad? |

Whether travelling domestically or internationally, planning and preparing for your four-legged companion’s travel requirements is the best way of reducing any stress to yourself and your pet…

> Be sure to read the first half of this article:
Travelling with your furry companions – Part-1/


Making use of a reputable pet travel company is probably the least stressful and most efficient option when using air travel. Any incorrect documentation or information will lead to your pet being denied access to the flight, or country of destination, causing much distress and delay to yourself and your pet. It is best to use an airline that services the entire route of travel.  Changing airline companies during a layover may cause you to claim your animal, clear customs and recheck your animal in and thus be subject to the regulations of the layover country.

It is advisable to use a non-stop flight to your destination. This reduces stress by reducing handling and excessive time in the crate. If there is a layover, keep it under 3 hours. Many airports do have facilities to clean crates, feed, water, walk your dog if the layover exceeds 3 hours. IATA compliant pet cargo crates are required. Your pet must be able to stand, turn and lie down comfortably. Acclimatize your pet to the travel crate, this reduces stress when travelling.

Be cognizant of temperatures when flying, try to fly in spring or autumn. If this is not possible, fly early mornings or late afternoons to avoid extremes in temperature.  Flying mid-week when less busy is also advisable. The riskiest part for animals is when they are on the runway waiting to be loaded. They are brought out with luggage and are loaded last, so they will spend time on the tarmac. Take note that if the temperatures exceed 29-30 C, the airlines may refuse to fly your pet on that day.

Fly from larger airports as there is a wider variety of airlines to choose from and the more likely option of a direct flight. Pets can travel as checked baggage cabin, checked baggage cargo or manifest cargo. All dogs and cats entering South Africa must fly as manifest cargo. Manifest cargo is the area below the cabin, it is dimly lit, pressurized and has a monitored temperature of 18-25 C. Many airlines will allow “Service and Emotional Animals” to travel in the cabin with the owners.

A private charter is also an option, albeit, more expensive.

Air travel with brachycephalic (flat nosed dogs and cats) is more risky, due to heat stress on the tarmac and take off as well as increased difficulty in breathing at higher altitudes. Some airlines do not fly brachycephalic pets.

Many countries have banned the importation of certain aggressive dog breeds. It is therefore important to know the immigration restrictions of the country you wish to travel to. If the dog does manage to arrive at the said destination and is considered an aggressive breed, it will either be returned to the country of origin or euthanased at the owner’s expense.

Travelling with puppies and kittens:

They must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned. They can travel on their mother’s rabies vaccinations if under 12 weeks of age, alternatively, they will need a rabies vaccination for travel.

If you are intending to immigrate, different countries have different entry requirements. Preparation time for immigration is usually six to eight months for most countries.

Animals travelling internationally must be microchipped with a microchip that meets the ISO standards. Rabies status is different depending on the country you are travelling to. Depending on the country of destination, a blood test may be required 30 days after rabies vaccination to determine rabies antibody titres. The rabies antibody levels need to be above 0.5 iu/ml before proceeding with immigration. Your pet’s original documentation needs to travel with your pet. It is worth having certified copies of the documents with you.

Preventative measures not required by law are often overlooked. Although these are not legislated, your pet’s health may suffer as a result of endemic diseases present in your country of destination. Make sure all your pet’s vaccinations for infectious diseases are up to date. Bear in mind that vaccinations for some infectious diseases are not available in South Africa and cannot thus be done pre-travel. Arrangements will need to be made to have your dog or cat vaccinated/ treated against these specific diseases on arrival in your country of destination.

Other prophylactic treatments that may be required are dewormers, tick and flea control and mosquito repellents.

Millions of our furry companions are safely transported each year. We as owners are responsible to ensure that we have adequately prepared for the process to enable it to go as smoothly and comfortably as possible.

Happy travels!

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