Shipping a Dog? Here’s All You Need To Know
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Shipping a Dog? Here’s All You Need To Know

shipping a dog

Shipping a dog abroad can feel like a difficult task, with many concerns being raised over safety, cost and legality. We’ve helped thousands of dog owners over the years who all shared very similar concerns about pet export, which is why we’ve put together this in-depth guide to teach you everything there is to know about exporting your dog to your chosen country, while keeping your dog comfortable and safe along the way.

This article is designed to give you all the information you need to help you make an informed decision about shipping your dog overseas. So without further ado, let’s jump right in…

How does shipping a dog work?

As an industry, pet shipping has a vast amount of variables and so getting expert advice from a pet travel company like Fetchapet is always the best place to start. Every country, airline, and species or even breed have different rules that need to be followed, but this will help as a general guide of what to expect.

Most dogs fly booked as manifested freight in the animal hold, and because cargo is the safest and most comfortable way for dogs to travel, this is the only type of journey we will book. The animal hold is located in the belly of the aircraft and is air-conditioned, heated and pressurized in exactly the same way as the passenger cabin, thus ensuring all pets are kept comfortable during the journey. The lights in the animal hold are dimmed to as low as they can go during the flight; only coming on for take-off, landing and if there is turbulence, so this encourages pets to settle in their travel kennel for the duration of the flight.

We will book dogs on a direct flight where this is possible and for longer journeys or those that need a connecting flight, we will choose the animal transit stations with the very best welfare standards to ensure all dogs are checked on and made comfortable during their stay there. Transits offer dogs a chance to be greeted by a friendly human who is trained as an animal handler, be placed in a proper kennel unit to stretch their legs, eat a small meal (if the stay is long enough for it to be practical to do so), and relieve themselves after being in their travel kennels and therefore unwilling to do so.

What size travel crate for a dog?

Large dog box
Large dog travel crate

Air freight charges are determined by the size of the travel kennel, so the bigger the dog, the more expensive the cargo charge will be.

It is vital that the travel kennel is the right size for each individual pet, not only for the costs to be determined, but more importantly for the safety and comfort of the dog. IATA (International Air Transport Association) produces a yearly compliance manual called the LAR (Live Animals Regulations) that covers in depth the requirements for determining the crate size along with the manufacturing rules that cover construction and safety. This manual provides the minimum size that must be allowed, and is too much to cover in one article, but generally and in layman’s terms this means each pet must be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably in the travel crate. This means that many breeds are not able to travel in plastic crates because the dog stands taller or is longer than the crate. Fetchapet will ship those dogs in specially constructed wooden kennels based on the size of the individual pet.

The LAR regulations must be followed, along with any additional specific airline rules in order for pets to be allowed to travel by air. The airlines reserve the right to refuse or offload any animal that is determined to be in a travel kennel that is too small or of incorrect construction. It can be equally dangerous to ship a dog in a kennel that is too large, the pet could spin around constantly in the travel kennel, injuring itself or causing problems such as bloat or twisted gut, or the pet could be slipping and sliding around in a large crate if there was turbulence or the plane had to make an emergency landing.

To determine the correct crate size, Fetchapet will ask for the measurements of each dog, taken when standing normally, to include the length from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, the height from the ground to the top of the head or tip of the ears if pricked, and the width at the widest part of the body. We will use these measurements and our years of experience to add on the necessary inches to provide ultimate comfort and safety for the dog. We do not rely on the minimums provided by the IATA LAR when providing travel kennels as we prefer to offer a ‘first class sleeper seat’ sized kennel bearing in mind how long the pet may be confined in the crate, but we will accept complaint crates provided by owners based on those minimum requirements.

What can I give my dog for travel anxiety?

dog travel anxiety

When dealing with travel anxiety, a two-pronged approach is necessary and helpful. It is very important to look at both behavioural and medical interventions when determining the best ways to help alleviate additional stress to the dog. Together with the pet owner, we will advise on what can be done to help pets cope with unusual situations like airline travel, and we advise strongly that the pet is crate trained prior to the journey to ensure the travel kennel is considered a ‘safe space’ for the dog. Dogs do not see enclosed spaces in the same way as humans, they naturally go to ‘den’ when frightened or nervous, often going to their bed, under a table, behind a chair or even under the owners legs, and so to them (and if done correctly) the crate training can be an owners best weapon when trying to combat the effects of stress on a dog.

Sedatives are very dangerous if given for airline travel and can kill a dog because they increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Except in unusual circumstances, veterinarians should not dispense sedatives for animals that are to be transported. Airlines will refuse to carry any dog that they suspect may be sedated due to the high risks of morbidity. Fetchapet will never knowingly transport any sedated animal. Sedatives are not only dangerous, but short lived, and even if the dog was unaffected by the change in altitude, the dog would wake up during the journey and be far more disorientated and unaware of their surroundings than they would be if travelling awake and alert and able to process what is happening.

There are medications that can be given prior to travel that do not have any sedative effect such as zylkene or calmex, but we recommend that consulting your Vet for help with this is the best thing to do as they will have full knowledge of your individual dog and are best suited to assist with things like medication.

Fetchapet use Adaptil Transport (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) spray in our travel kennels. In mammals, all lactating females release substances called “appeasing” pheromones, the function of which is to reassure the offspring. Canine appeasing pheromones are secreted by the bitch 3 to 5 days after the puppy’s birth. Adaptil mimics those pheromones and helps dogs to handle stressful situations such as transport, separation and kennelling better, thus allowing them to adapt more readily to new situations – without the use of drugs.

For dogs that have a fear of loud noises, Adaptil is now also available in tablet form and their product ADAPTIL Express is a natural ingredients based, non-pheromone calming tablet that is used for fast calming before events like travel noise, thunderstorms or fireworks.

ADAPTIL Express is a unique combination including amino acids and vitamins that provide fast and temporary calming.

It is also worth remembering that whilst stress is not enjoyable, and can make us very uncomfortable and anxious, stress is actually something we (and dogs) can physically tolerate and will be both relatively short in duration (over as soon as the dog is reunited with owner) and worth it if it means the dog can rejoin their family at the end of the process. Please take a look on our Fetchapet facebook or instagram if you want to see for yourself just how happy both dogs and owners are to be reunited. Owners report that their pets are fully back to normal within a couple of days of arriving – exactly the same as we are…

How safe is shipping a dog?

safely shipping a dog
Around 4 million pets travel around the world each year!

Pet travel is extremely safe when handled by people with years of experience like we have at Fetchapet. We both follow and exceed all rules and guidelines and only use trusted routes and those airlines we can rely on. Rachel and Emma at Fetchapet combine more than 35 years of knowledge and experience and will always put the welfare of your pet first and foremost.

Some 4 million pets travel around the world each year, and the fatalities are less than 100. To put this in context, it means that the fatalities amount to 0.0025% of the total pets travelled. The majority of these fatalities are with pets travelling in and around the USA on US airlines. The reason for this is unknown, but the opinion of Fetchapet is that dogs travelling in the US are confined into travel kennels that are too small (and not refused travel because of this reason) thus reducing airspace and having a direct effect on the welfare of the pet.

The extremely low airline fatality figures show just how safe pet travel is; all pets have to be certified as ‘fit to fly’ before travel, which involves a Veterinarian checking the animal and issuing a health certificate. It, of course only certifies the pet fit on that particular day, but is much more than humans do before flying and issues such as breathing difficulties or heart problems can be picked up here. At least after this examination, decisions as to if the pet is truly safe to travel can be made. Problems, whilst rare, are often similar to what happens with humans, such as thrombosis that would most likely have occurred anyway.

The airlines also have to conform to IATA’s and their own guidelines, and all staff involved in the handling of pets are specially livestock trained.

Pets are not general cargo, but a specialist product they offer at a higher price, and so are treated as such by the airlines we use.

Does the age of my pet matter?

does age matter in pet shipping

Age is not something that will rule out airline travel, we have successfully shipped many geriatric pets as far as Australia or New Zealand, enabling them to spend the last of their days reunited with their family. They often travel in slightly wider kennels than normal if suffering from stiffness or arthritis, so it is easier for them to turn around and lay down on the kennel with their legs stretched out. Older dogs do have the advantage of being generally calmer, having had more life experiences such as long car journeys, and tend to be happier to rest for long periods.

With puppies, the best time for them to travel is around 10 weeks old as they seem to be completely unaffected at that age – they go along with anything and forget things very quickly. At this age puppies are still used to being confined much more than adult pets. 10 weeks is the youngest most airlines will carry pets and we at Fetchapet will not transport puppies by air under this age regardless of the airline rulings.

Older puppies and young dogs can be very afraid of random noises or new experiences simply because they are learning about the world around them and what to avoid, often looking to owners for reassurance (and so finding it absent), and generally do not like to change their routines. Physically they are perfectly suited to airline travel as they are often in peak condition, and so the considerations for these pets should focus on crate training and mental wellbeing.

Middle aged dogs are in the same category as the youngers, perhaps a little more settled with the puppy stage over and done with, but the take home message here is that for ALL dogs it is beneficial to crate train and provide the best feeling of security that can be managed in what will be an unusual experience.

How much does shipping a dog cost?

dog shipping cost
You can get a free no obligation quote at Fetchapet!

The cost of shipping a dog depends on a number of factors. The major considerations are the freight rates set by the airline, which vary depending on their own rates, the destination, and the size of the travel kennel required for the dog, which in turn determines the amount of space needed in the animal hold. For example, a Chihuahua travelling to the USA will only need a small crate and would qualify for a relatively inexpensive freight rate, whereas a Labrador travelling to Australia would need a much bigger crate and so the freight rate would also be considerably higher. Landing charges are different at every airport in the world, some charge a small fee payable on arrival for customs and airline clearance (like New York), others have additional costs like import permits, Veterinary inspections and quarantine (like Melbourne) that are payable in advance, and so are much more expensive overall.

The Veterinary requirements can add considerable costs to the overall journey price, some are very simple like the USA needing just a rabies vaccination and a health certificate whereas Australia requires vaccinations, blood tests, insecticidal treatments and health certificates, plus quarantine on arrival, all adding hundreds or even thousands of £ to the overall cost.

Other differences can include breed of dog as some airlines won’t carry certain breeds that they consider to be dangerous or snub-nosed. Very large or very strong breeds may need a crate called a CR82 that is designed for very strong animals, and snub nosed animals require a larger crate with more space to allow for more airflow inside larger in size than normally used for a dog of that size. All of these cost extra. Indirect flights sometimes cost more and places like Australia have only 1 airport and quarantine facility that allow international flight landings, so an additional flight after quarantine in Melbourne will be required for places like Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.

Noting all of these variables indicates why it is impossible to give exact costs without having the measurements of the individual dog and exact destination.

Using my examples above, the expected cost for a Chihuahua to travel to New York, Singapore or Melbourne would be approximately £1400, £1600 and £2200 respectively.

For a Labrador, the costs would be approximately £2400 for New York, £2500 for Singapore and £4000 for Melbourne. On top of these costs Veterinary fees and landing and customs charges will apply depending on the destination. Bigger dogs will cost more than this example and these prices are approximate, as per October 2023. Sending 2 dogs does not automatically cost double as some of the airline fees are per air waybill (cargo ticket).

Find Out Exactly How Much It Would Cost To Ship Your Dog

If you’d like a free quote on the total costs to ship your dog abroad, click the button below and fill out your details and your dog’s measurements. After you have filled out the form, we will get back to you with your no obligation quote. You can also call us on 01206 330332 for any free help and advice you may need.