Are you traveling abroad but don’t want to leave your pet behind?
You might not have to!
Our pets are our family and when traveling abroad one of the most difficult things is leaving them behind. But guess what? You might not have to!
When I relocated to New Orleans I had to figure out how I will take my small dog with me. I traveled from Israel to the U.S with my dog in the cabin and then on my way back to Israel traveled with a different small dog, this time as an emotional support animal. Hopefully, my experience will help you learn about flying with a pet.
Let’s start with some basic requirements:
Dogs can fly only if they’re over 3-4 months old (because they have to get a rabies shot before flying). Usually, you can fly with one pet for a person but there are some exceptions (2 pets might be authorized to travel in the same kennel if they’re small enough to fit in it)
Small pets of about 17lb/8 kilos can travel in the passenger cabin as a carry-on. Larger pets are shipped as cargo. But, for every rule, there is an exception. As I will explain later, in some cases you will be able to take your pet regardless of its size with you on the plane, no kennel needed.
Your pets mustn’t (!) be sedated during the flight (as any vet will tell you) since there’s no way of telling what’s the side effects of flying pets that have been given ay type of sedative materials (I gave my dog Valerian drops which are natural herbal drops)
Which is the best airline to travel with a pet?
Want to know what’s the limitations? For your convenience, here’s a list here for major airlines guidelines to traveling with a pet:
Entering another country with a pet
Each country has its rules about what’s required from a pet entering its borders. Most countries demand a chip, rabies vaccine, health passport and things like that.
Normally, your vet will know what exams you need but you can always look up the official information online (warning- as anything that has to do with governments the information is mostly not clear so consult your vet).
The one thing you need to do is plan your flight with your pets in advance.
Some countries demand a mandatory quarantine upon arrival (China, Australia, and Britain for example). There might be an exception so do your research and try to avoid quarantine at any cost.
For information about flying from Israel to the USA or from the USA to Israel click here.
Flying with a small pet in the passengers’ cabin
The price of an international flight with a pet in the cabin costs about 100$ (USD).
Generally, your pet has to weight less than 17lb (each airline has its own guidelines) with the carry bag included in order to fly in the passenger cabin.
Note: from my experience no one I know ever had to weight their pets with the bag. So If your half a kilo over, like in my case, it’s totally fine.
There’s also size limitation on you carry bag. The general rule is that the bag should fit below the seat in front of you. You will have the exact measurements of the allowed bag size on the airline’s website.
In reality, you will most likely sit with your legs spread over the bag or with both legs on one side of the bag (no one said it’s gonna be a comfortable flight) since it’s not realistic to fit the bag beneath the seat in front of you.
You can read about my experience flying with my small dog in the passengers’ cabin here.
Flighing with a large pet shipped as cargo
If you’re pet weights more than 17lb (8 kilos) you will have to ship it as cargo.
The kennel should have a hard bottom and should be locked!
This shipping method is difficult on the animal as well as the owner. Dogs usually don’t understand what’s going on and they might be traumatized by it. Of course, there are also horror stories of pets dying during the flight.
Don’t worry, as I said there are exceptions as in the case of an emotional support animal
Flying with your pet, small or big, in the cabin as an emotional support pet
You might have heard of emotional support pet- pets that will help their owner with any mental struggle or disability they have.
Today it’s relatively easy to get an emotional support certificate from online psychological services. This is a controversial issue since some people claim it’s abused by people that just want to have their pets on the flight rather than really need it.
I do not want to get into the whole debate especially since I believe that those who go through the effort of getting this certificate might actually need it and their pet serves as emotional support on one level or another but never went through the process of getting it. Also, I would be stressed AF if I had my dog at the bottom of the plane and would probably have a panic attack throughout the flight until I see my dog again.
Anyways, the certificate costs about 150$ but with it, you don’t have to pay for the flight (which is around 100$ internationally)
The thing about this certificate is that this serves for large or small dogs so it’s amazing for those who own a larger dog.
If you’re wondering where the hell would you sit that dog, if you get the diploma, I would say the best thing you can do is fly with another person and reserve the 2 seat row in the plane. On my flight back to Israel a girl and her mom flew with their huge dog and sat in this row and then the dog was lying on the floor in front of them. Traveling with another person, in general, is good advice because you would need another person to be with your dog if you needed to use the restroom while flying.
How to get an emotional support certificate?
I, unfortunately, didn’t know about this certificate before I lived in the US but when I lived here a friend that already traveled with his pet recommended I get the certificate.
This is how it works:
In order to get this certificate, you need a psychologist to approve that your mental state would improve with the support of a pet. But since they only need to know a few details about you in order to make their diagnostic that you need a support pet, this service can be done online (I got mine on CertaPet.com).
You would need to fill in a questionnaire that will ask you about your current mental state and your past. Questions like- have you ever been treated for stress, are you having difficulty sleep, are you depressed, etc. It’s really important that you would go into detail especially in case you really need an emotional support pet and not just doing it for the flight.
For my friend since he wasn’t necessarily a classic case of a person that needs an emotional support pet the psychologist called him back and did a follow-up. She asked more questions but they were aimed at him giving answers that will make him qualify for the certificate. For me, since I was heavily depressed while living abroad, she approved the application immediately.
After you get approved the psychologist will send you the certificate via email and mail. In some cases (like for Delta) you would need another form filled up by the psychologist (I had to pay a bit more for this one). You need to have these documents with you at all times. It’s not likely they will really look into it but normally just ask if you have it.
Here’s the trick- you can’t get this emotional support certificate in many cases if you don’t have a U.S address. So if you’re not from the U.S this could be an issue. Also, in many cases, you need to renew the certificate so if you had one and left the country it will be problematic. You can always get an address but then if the psychologist needs to call you and speak with you personally, you will need to lie and say you’re in the US but can’t talk or say you live there but currently on vacation.
My experience flying with a small dog
I’ve traveled with a 17 lb (8 kilos) dog from Israel to the U.S and then returned to Israel with a different 11 lb (5 kilos) dog.
Both times I had my dog with me in the cabin but the second time my dog, Tiny, was an emotional support dog so I didn’t pay for his ticket (that cost 100$ the first time) and he was allowed to sit on my lap rather than stay in the kennel.
My flight from Israel to the U.S
The first flight was rough I have to admit. My dog, Rio, was a mini pincher that was skinny but long so her body couldn’t fit comfortably in the carry on bag (that was already bigger than allowed).
Rio was an anxious dog, to say the least, and had aggression issues. The vet even recommended shipping her as cargo just because she’s too much and was worse when she was with me.
Still, as I said, sedating her with chemical medication was not an option since it wasn’t allowed. The one thing I did give her were Valerian drops that are basically a natural herbal extract of plants that are meant to help dogs (and humans) relax. You can check those out on Iherb.com or Amazon.com
We managed to get through the airport relatively easily (although she barked while in her kennel and just in general went crazy).
Once the plane took off I managed to put her on my lap and cover her with a blanket. This is not allowed but thankfully in many cases, the flight attendants turn a blind eye. Rio slept for the most time but I was so worried about her I couldn’t sleep or move while she was lying on me.
After flying for 12 hours and being detained in NYC (not because of Rio but my student visa) I barely made it to my second flight.
I managed to get her to pee in the designated areas in NYC but the 4 hours flight next was extremely difficult. The person next to me asked the flight attendant for a different seat which was great for me and luckily there was another seat available. I had the whole row to myself but Rio was up the whole time and more anxious than ever.
I tried covering her with a blanket but the flight attendant kept asking me to put her in her bag. By this stage, she was so thirsty (the moment we got home she drank 3 full bowls of water) so I got some water and gave her in my collapsible bowl. I also had snacks that I used to relax her throughout the flight.
We made it to New Orleans and Rio peed at the airport right after leaving the plane (make sure you have tons of toilet paper and wet wipes).
When we got to the Airbnb I got it took Rio a few days to even understand what’s going on. Unfortunately, she was run over by a car merely 5 days after we got to New Orleans. A month later, still devastated, I decided to rescue a sick 9-year-old dog named Tiny.
My flight from the U.S to Israel
The dog that I adopted in New Orleans was epileptic and after my flight with Rio I was not going to go through the same so I got the emotional support certificate.
My flight back home would have been much better if it hadn’t been for my dogs’ injury on my connection at JFK. After the injury, I had to carry him in his kennel the whole time.
But thanks to the certificate on my first domestic flight from New Orleans to New York I was walking around with him and he was able to sit on my lap.
Israel to the USA and back
Flying from Israel to the USA- click here for General Information
Flying from Israel to the USA you would need 3 weeks at least to get your documents and exams in order.
You will need to contact your vet that will produce a health certificate not more than 10 days before the flight.
You will also need to meet with the municipal vet. That’s might be a bit tricky depends on where you live. these vets work usually once a week in each city (in Jerusalem for example).
From the USA to Israel- click here for General Information
You would need to plan your visit at least 5 weeks before because of the titer exam requirement that is only done in one place in the U.S so and via snail mail (so it takes time and even if you want to speed it will take at least 2 weeks).
If your pet was with you abroad for over 90 days there’s no need for approval from the Israeli municipal vet but they will need a passport and vaccination certificate from the U.S.
The certificate has to indicate that the dog was vaccinated for rabies not more than a year and less than a month before arriving in Israel.
How to prepare your pet for a flight
The most crucial thing to do is to prepare your pet for long stays in the carry bag. Even if your pet serves as an emotional support pet and doesn’t have to stay in a bag, in very crowded areas you might want to carry it.
How long in advance do you need to prepare your pet?
I would say a month or more but that changes.
Since Rio was a difficult dog I even brought a trainer that loured her in the carry bag with treats and a lot of patience. Once she’s in her bag we kept it open for a few times and started slowly closing it and leaving her there while still feeding her treats from a small opening.
The whole purpose of the training was to create a pleasant connotation in the dog’s mind regarding his or her kennel.
I would take her in my car with her carry bag, walked with her in the mall so she would get used to being in around people and noises.
Don’t neglect to prepare your pet for the flight. Even with Tiny who’s such a relaxed dog, I trained him.
What do bring with you to the flight?
The day of the flight
Feed your pet no more than 4 hours before the flight and give it as much water as possible.
Most importantly- take the longest walk you can before the flight.
Tips for flying with a pet
- Small pets have to weight 17 lb/8 kilos with their kennel
- Plan your trip at least a month in advance (it can be done in a shorter amount of time but not recommended)
- Choose the shortest flight with the least connections
- You can fly with a small or large dog in the passenger cabin in case you get the emotional support certificate.
- prepare your pet to the flight a month in advance
- Do not sedate your pet before the flight
Still confused? Have any question? That’s totally understandable!
Please feel free to comment on the post with your questions or contact me directly at