Flying with your Dog Internationally

Traveling with your pet can be so stressful!  We’ve been flying with our dogs for the past 12 years, both internationally and domestically and here’s what I’ve learned.  First thing you need to do is educate yourself on what documents you need if traveling internationally.  You need to know what shots are required for the country you plan on visiting and be sure to check WHEN the shot/shots need to be given and remember, the wellness check up can only be within 10 days of travel (it’s only good for 10 days).  

Visit and select the country you plan to visit to find out what is required. Be sure to read about obtaining a Pet Passport!  You can save a lot of money if you do the leg work yourself.

We’ve always had good luck shipping our dogs but our last trip from the states to Germany was a nightmare!  We had the vet give our older dog her rabies vaccination even though she was current (we had given her the 1 year rabies earlier that year but wasn’t sure Germany would accept it).  Once we arrived in Germany, the vet would not honor that rabies shot and required us to give her another one.  She assured us there would be no issue with her receiving another shot so soon….she was wrong! 

We had taken our dog in because she was coughing, another lesson I learned the hard way, a dog can get Kennel Cough from stress!  I didn’t know this so I had not asked our local US vet for the Kennel Cough vaccination.  Long story short, giving our dog another rabies shot on top of her already being sick cause us to nearly lose her.  She spent a night in the hospital with a really high fever but after a strong dose of antibiotics in her IV, she started a slow recovery.

Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, get the kennel cough vaccination before traveling!  The vet has never recommended that we get one so you’ll have to ask for it.

We had a “large kennel” for our dog who is about the size of a lab. Our dog fit the height and weight restrictions listed on this kennel but on our last two flights we were harassed about the size.  To avoid this issue, I upgraded the size to an extra large and check-in was a breeze.

Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, book on Lufthansa to ship your dog, it will save you thousands of dollars to ship them yourself instead of using a pet service.  Let the Lufthansa agent know you want to book them as EXCESS BAGGAGE.  This is important, if you say you want them to go cargo they’ll refer you to a pet service that will cost you 2k and up.  We paid 450.00 to ship one way Washington DC to Frankfurt.

The Dulles International Airport has a really nice fenced in pet area at the end of the building.  We always check in and start the process early but keep the dog with us until the latest possible time.  With such a large kennel (XL), we have to travel with it to the airport and put it together there.  I usually book a hotel in DC the night before our travel and do all my prep work for the kennel there.  I buy 3 rolls of brown paper from a craft store, they look like rolls of Christmas paper but they are solid brown, like a paper bag.  I spend about an hour shredding this paper for the bottom of the kennel and layer that paper on top of a waterproof pad followed by a pee pad (pee pads are required by the airlines).  See photos at the bottom of the post.

Put all your shredded paper in a large garbage back until you get to the airport.  After you check in, you’ll be required to take the kennel over to the US Customs Security area for them to check inside the kennel.  After they check the kennel, empty your bag of shredded paper in the kennel.  Once your dog is in the kennel, the Customs Agent will use a zip tie or two to seal the cage.  This is for security this way no one can open the kennel and put anything in and your dog can’t escape on the ramp. 

Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, take something in your CHECK IN bag to cut the ties with.  You should have time to get all your luggage before your pet is brought in, I usually take a pair of medical scissors but Woody took a pair of pliers.  We pack them in the outside pocket of our CHECK IN luggage.

You can read more about what the airline requires for the kennel on the web page I gave you earlier, they’ll want a water bottle strapped to the outside of the cage (spout threaded through the wire cage door) and a bag of food taped to the top of the kennel.  Our pet always arrives with the bag of food unopened so not sure why they require this??

Advice From a Dumb Blonde, I always ask the flight attendent to let the pilot know we have a dog in the cargo area.  I read an article years ago about show dogs dying in flight as the flight crew was unaware of animals onboard and didn’t keep the cargo area heated at altitude. Better safe than sorry! 


Use a USDA ACCREDITED VETERINARIAN to give the shots! 

This last part is important to know, normally I walk the shot records, pet passport and paperwork in to get them approved (find brick and mortar locations on the website I listed earlier), it’s not an easy process but you’ll find out right away if anything is missing or incorrect.  I always do this on the first day possible (remember you can only do it 10 days or within 10 days of travel) in case anything is missing.  

During covid you’ll need all the extra time you can get, they ask you to FEDEX the documents to their office where they will wait one day before opening it (due to covid) and then FEDEX back to you.  Don’t forget, you must provide the return FEDEX package with your documents.


Your pet will need to have a microchip, go to the web site I provided and read about getting a microchip.  There is so much information you’ll need to know and most of it will be on the USDA site but one thing I didn’t find there was the timing of the chip, you must have the chip in place before getting the rabies shot! 

 Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, find a vet that is familiar with pet travel (and is USDA ACCREDITED!) to help you, our first vet knew nothing about pet travel so I paid for shots that weren’t needed and it took me two trips downtown to get the paperwork right.

Side note, I hate Lufthansa Airlines, the staff isn’t friendly or helpful, the airplanes aren’t great but they LOVE pets in Germany and will treat your dog well so it’s the only airline I’ll fly our dog on. But for the record, United is my favorite US to Germany Airline. #FlyTheFriendlySkies 

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