Planning Your Flight: International Pet Travel

22 December 2015
Read Time: 3.0 mins

Whether you're moving overseas or just taking your furry buddy on a whirlwind holiday, Flight Centre's guide on international pet travel can help ensure the fur doesn't fly on your pet's journey.

There are numerous boxes that must be checked before, during and after the flight, so it's best to be prepared. Read on to find out what needs to be done.

This is a compressed version. For the complete guide, visit our Planning Your Flight section.

 This is NOT how you travel with your pet (Image: Getty)

Before The Flight

Visit the vet

Like domestic pet travel, the first step in organising your furry friend’s big adventure abroad is booking in a visit to the vet.

As well as giving your pet a clean bill of health with up-to-date vaccinations, worming and flea and tick treatments, the vet may be required to administer some extra checks for international travel.

Be sure to visit an AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) certified vet at least 30 days prior to travel. The vet may need to vaccinate your pet for rabies depending on your country of origin, take blood tests and write a note for you to submit to the appropriate government body.

It is not recommended to sedate your pet prior to travel and the airline may not accept sedated animals as it can cause dehydration. However, the vet may be able to provide a natural calmer if your pet is anxious or especially active.

Some countries require pets to be micro chipped for identification so organise with your vet to have this done.

Organise your container

All animal containers must comply with the specifications of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), including a sturdy construction and enough space for your pet to stand, turn and lie down.

Most airlines require your pet’s travel abode to be made of metal or wood, as larger animals can potentially break through plastic crates.

 Make sure your pet has plenty of room inside their container (Image: Getty)

Containers (crates, carriers or kennels) must not be collapsible if they are to be stored in the cargo hold, must have a secure door that can be locked, and must be leak-proof with suitable rubber matting to absorbs liquids and odours.

Long-haul containers should have separate food and water dishes attached inside the kennel. It's also a good idea to include a favourite toy or comfort item to keep your pet feeling safe.

Containers can be hired or purchased from dedicated pet travel companies, such as Dogtainers, or sometimes even from the airline themselves.

Label your pet's carrier with your name and contact and destination details. Attach a bag of food and feeding details for ground staff upon arrival.

Permits and paperwork

The process to send pets international can be complex and arduous, and should be started well in advance of travel – sometimes at least six months before.

Your Flight Centre consultant can help you along with this process and ensure all the right boxes are ticked and the journey is a smooth one.

There are different forms depending on the country you are entering, which are arranged through the appropriate government body.

Travelling from Australia, you are required to complete an AQIS form notifying your intention to export an animal, called an NOI. Once AQIS receive this form, they will contact you to arrange an appointment to issue you an export permit and a health certificate.

 Your pet will be treated kindly by the ground staff (Image: Getty)

International pet travel checklist

  • Veterinary treatments and letter
  • Up-to-date vaccinations
  • Export, import and transit permits
  • AQIS documentation
  • Quarantine documentation
  • Government documentation if needed
  • IATA approved container

Flying domestic? Planning For Your Flight: Domestic Pet Travel

Sorted out your visa? Planning For Your Flight: Visa Facts

During The Flight

Where does my pet stay?

Your pet is placed in a climate-controlled and pressurised cargo hold. Some international aircraft do not accept pets in extremely hot or cold weather in order to prevent harm.

Pets as carry-on

Some international airlines allow pets as carry-on. This isn’t allowed in Australia and does depend on the destination, but some flights in the US and Europe do let you to keep your small pampered pup or purring pal with you in the cabin.

Pets must stay in their carrier at all times during the flight and there are limits to how many animals can travel in the cabin at one time, so check with your consultant to find out all the finer details.

 Remember to show your pet plenty of love once you arrive (Image: Getty)

After The Flight


When your pets return to Australia from another country, they must stay in quarantine for at least 10 days and sometimes up to a few weeks if they need to be tested or treated for disease.

Your pet may be placed in quarantine when travelling both to and from Australia. There are two cat and dog quarantine facilities in Australia – one in Sydney and one in Melbourne – which are quite similar to boarding kennels.

Your pets will be well cared for and comfortable during their time in quarantine.

You can arrange for your pet to be transported from the quarantine location to your home address when they are given the all clear.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.

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