Travel Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions about Traveling with Pets
What do I need to know about traveling with my pet?

When traveling anywhere with your pet, we recommend you consider bringing:

  • Current Rabies Certificate
  • Current vaccine certificate
  • Microchip number
  • City license number
  • Travel ID with a photo of your pet
  • Copy of medical records (particularly if your pet has any chronic conditions)
  • Medications (including flea/tick/heartworm control)
  • Regular Diet (may not be available at your destination)
  • Pet carrier/Bed and Toys
How should I prepare for my pet for traveling by air?

Besides the normal preparation for travel you will also need to:

  • Confirm your airline allows pets.
  • Check for any species, size, age, or breed restrictions.
  • Review any special instructions for carriers or kennels provided by your airline.
  • Review any documents required by your airline and any specific timing with the issuing of those documents.
    • Rabies vaccines are required by all airlines. Check with your airline about this requirement and whether they have any timing requirement for this vaccine.
    • Most airlines require a Certificate of Veterinary Health Inspection prior to flight which must be issued on the date of examination by a USDA accredited veterinarian.
    • Many airlines require the Certificate of Veterinary Health Inspection be issued within 10 days of initial travel. Some will allow your pet to travel for up to 30 days with the same certificate.  Confirm your dates of travel and that the certificate will be valid during that timeframe.
    • Your pet may need a certificate of acclimation — this is most often required for cold weather travel.
    • If your pet requires an examination or vaccination, please make sure to schedule your pet’s appointment in advance.
  • Confirm any feeding and watering instructions from the airline.
  • Reservations for your pet should be made at the same time as your own to help ensure your pet will travel with you and that there will be room on the flight for your pet.
Are there any special considerations I should make when booking plane tickets for my pet?
  • We strongly recommend making reservations for both you and your pet at the same time to reduce the chances of your pet being denied boarding due to overbooking.
  • Try to have your pet travel in the cabin with you.
  • Consider booking a non-stop/direct flight to your destination. If you cannot, we recommend avoiding plane changes and minimizing transfers.
  • If your departure or arrival is likely to involve high temperatures, aim for travel during cooler hours such as early morning or late at night.
  • If your departure or arrival is likely to involve cold temperatures, try to travel mid-day to late afternoon.
What do I need to know about travel restrictions for pets?

Airlines create their own pet policies so what is true for some may not be true for others.  Always check with your airline to ensure your pet is not restricted.

Common restrictions include:

  • Brachycephalic and snub-nosed dogs and cats are generally not accepted for travel in cargo by any airline. Make sure to carefully check their breed list. Airlines may even require a form signed by a veterinarian confirming that a “mixed breed” dog or cat is not predominantly any of the breeds they prohibit. This form would be provided by your airline.
  • Some airlines may prohibit dogs of what they describe as “historically aggressive breeds.” Those airlines should provide a list of breeds.
  • Sedation/Tranquilization is often prohibited prior to travel. Airlines may refuse to accept pets that appear to be medicated in this manner.
  • Cold or hot weather may result in your airline refusing to fly your pet. If your pet will be traveling to or through a location with temperatures lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit the airline may require a letter of acclimation which states that the pet can be kept/transported in temperatures between 20- and 44-degrees Fahrenheit for a certain amount of time. By law airlines are not allowed to transport pets in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can I get sedatives for my pet?

The answer to this will depend on your pet, their health, and how they will be traveling. The most common request we receive is for medication for pets traveling by plane in cargo.  In the majority of cases medication is not recommended or allowed for pets traveling in cargo as it may reduce their ability to regulate their body temperature and increase the likelihood of injury or death.  Whenever possible we recommend working with your pet through training to increase their comfort while traveling or leaving your pet at home. If travel is still in your pet’s future, the doctor can discuss the safest and best options with you.

What do I need to know about getting a Health Certificate?

A Domestic Health Certificate (also known as a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or CVI) is issued by a veterinarian who is licensed in their state and has received USDA accreditation. The document is supplied by and reported to the State of Washington. All of our doctors are licensed, and the majority of our doctors are USDA accredited. Health certificates are generally required by airlines and sometimes by government officials. It is important to be familiar with your airline’s documentation requirements as well as confirming anything required by your destination– in some cases pets who are unaccompanied require additional documentation. Check with your airline directly for their requirements. You can visit the Washington State Department of Health for more information about domestic travel.

If your pet needs a health certificate for domestic travel, you will need to:

  • Verify the requirements for the certificate including how long before travel the certificate may be issued as well as how long the certificate is valid after the initial trip. Depending on the destination of travel and the length of your trip your certificate my expire before you return.
  • Schedule your pet’s veterinary examination in advance.
  • Verify that your pet’s rabies vaccine is current and falls within the airline’s and/or destination’s guidelines. Some airlines require the vaccination be given at least 30 days prior to travel.
  • If your pet was vaccinated by another veterinary practice, you will need to provide a rabies certificate.
  • Provide a “current” address and “destination address” for the health certificate as well as the name or names of people traveling with or shipping and receiving your pet.

Health certificates require an examination and the date on the certificate must match the date of the examination. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Please be prepared for your pet to “fail” the health certificate examination. While it is not common, some pets are diagnosed with new and emerging illnesses at their health certificate examination that prevent them from being able to travel safely. If your pet has any known health issues, we recommend checking with your veterinarian as to whether your pet can travel safely with their condition prior to purchasing tickets.

What are the health risks to be aware of at my pet’s destination?

Whenever possible, we recommend contacting a veterinary clinic anywhere you plan to travel and requesting information on any routine health recommendations they make for their patients. Specifically, you will want to learn about their heartworm and vaccination recommendations as well as asking about any concerns with local wildlife or diseases. For example, pets traveling to Eastern Washington and other parts of the country may be at risk for rattlesnake bites. Pets traveling to the Southwestern U.S. may be at increased risk of contracting Valley Fever. Knowing what to expect as you travel will help you make informed decisions to help reduce the likelihood of your pet becoming sick.

It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local veterinary clinics and emergency care options for your pet as they travel, too.

How do I take my pet to Hawaii?

In order to successfully take your pet to Hawaii you must plan ahead. Hawaii is a “rabies free” state which is a designation they take seriously.  The State of Hawaii Animal Industry Division has a page on their website that will always have the most up to date information about importing pets to their islands.

There are two programs by which pets can travel to Hawaii. The first is for 5 days or less/direct airport release which is the most common option for our clients to choose. Alternatively, you may opt to have your pet boarded and quarantined for 120 days in Hawaii before they are released into your care. The quarantine option still requires pre-planning to ensure there is room for your pet at the quarantine station.

In general, traveling with your pet to Hawaii is an expensive and time-consuming process that requires planning ahead. The requirements for pet import change periodically (usually making it easier to take your pet) but still remain laborious. If you would like to take your pet to Hawaii, please make sure to review the information provided by Hawaii and contact us to begin the process as soon as possible.

How do I travel with my pet internationally?

Our practice does not currently offer international health certificates. We are able to provide a certificate of veterinary inspection (health certificate) which is issued through the state of Washington and is accepted by domestic airlines and may be accepted for some international destinations. We do not accept client-submitted health certificates.

We recommend reviewing the USDA imports and exports page for your pet’s destination as well as confirming any requirements from your airline.

For additional help with your pet’s international travel consider contacting Washington’s USDA Endorsement office. 

We strongly recommend working with a pet shipping company to get your pet to their international destination. For information about a variety of companies and other important things to know about taking your pet abroad consider visiting IPATA – International Pet And Animal Transportation Association.

Can my veterinarian provide documentation that my pet is a service animal?

Veterinarians are not able to provide documentation certifying your pet as a service or emotional support animal. Airlines are all required to abide by both the Americans with Disabilities act and the Airline Carrier Access Act, neither of which allow veterinarians to designate an animal as a pet, service, or emotional support animal. If you are concerned about traveling with your service or emotional support animal, please discuss these concerns with the airline so they can provide appropriate guidance.