Pet Travel, Medications and Illnesses

pets & vetWe often receive questions about pet travel and medication -- for example: can pets who are ill travel safely? If they need medicine during transit, who can administer it?

These are tricky to answer but definitely worth discussing. Read on to find out what our team of experts has to say about pet travel, medicine and pet health issues.

Getting Started

Our primary concern will always be the safety of your pet, and we will always trust the advice of your vet – they are the expert!

When planning for upcoming travels, we also encourage you to be open and honest with your PetRelocation Specialist about any health issues, past and present, which have affected your pet. It might seem insignificant, but any information you can provide will help us ensure a smoother experience for everyone.

Planning International Pet Travel

There are many things to be cognizant of when moving to a new country, especially with a pet that has an illness or who requires medication.

  • Each country has different regulations relating to various medications and you may find varying brands or names when you move.

  • Make a point of calling vets around the area you plan to move to find out if they can supply your chosen medication and have experience in treating your pet’s illness.

  • The country you are moving to may well have restrictions on your pet’s type of medication, so finding an alternative is very important.

  • It’s also a good idea to check if your pet’s food will be stocked in local stores or vet clinics, especially if your pet is on a special diet that is integral to their health.

  • It would also be worth looking around in your new destination for vets who have experience with your pet’s illness. Not all countries are as conscientious about animal welfare as you may be accustomed to, so it definitely helps to do your research to find a vet who will take your pet’s illness as seriously as you do. 

  • Some airlines do not allow pets to travel with medication, so this is a big factor to take into consideration as you start to plan your trip.



Again, we would like to stress that you listen to your vet above all – they will know best. Below are some of the most common pet illnesses that we have encountered in our years of relocating pets:


Diabetes – If your pet's diabetes is well-regulated, there should be minimal issues with travel. Complications can sometimes occur if your pet suffers from a combination of diabetes and another disease or illness. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep meal times as close to normal feeding time as possible.

  • Do not administer insulin if your pet does not eat.

  • If insulin is missed, there is a 12 hour window in which your pet should not experience issues. Keep in mind that blood sugar will be high, so make sure to provide insulin as soon as you can.

  • Please be aware that air travel is unpredictable – speak with your vet to see what impact a delay or cancelled flight would have on your pet.


Arthritis Arthritis may cause some soreness and stiffness after travel. As long as your pet receives regular pain medication on schedule before the flight, it should not be an issue. Here's a tip:

  • Applying warm compresses to joints before the flight and upon arrival will help ease the stiffness and soreness. We also recommend cold compresses after some slow exercise.


Epilepsy – As this disease varies in severity from pet to pet, it is best to consult your vet to see if travel is even an option. If it is viable, vets have suggested increasing the dose of phenobarbital for several days before travel, as it is imperative that the epileptic gets the prescribed dose before travel.

Again, some airlines will not allow pets to travel with medication, so you will need to make sure there is a way for your pet to receive medication once they get to their destination. Here's what we recommend:

  • Test out the increase in phenobarbital before travel, as this can result in sedative effects that would lead to rejection at check-in.

  • If medication is not required, consult with your vet to see if they can prescribe something to administer in case of the occurrence of a more serious seizure.

  • Kennel acclimation is paramount. This will help reduce stress which can trigger seizures. We want to make sure pets are as comfortable and relaxed as possible.


Heart Disease – Heart disease can take many forms and has varying levels of severity. Mild heart murmurs should not present problems as long as pets are healthy otherwise. On the other hand, if your pet has a history of heart failure, travel is probably not a good idea. In any case, we again stress that you speak with your vet as they will know best.

Say No to Sedation

We are frequently asked whether or not it is a good idea to sedate your pets prior to travel. There is a very simple answer: NO! While there are many reasons not to sedate your pet, Dr. David Landers DVM, a leading veterinarian in the pet relocation industry, sums it up best:

“Sedating your pet before travel can be quite dangerous for them. Sedatives can interfere with body temperature regulation, blood pressure, and the ability to control body movements, which can result in injury during flight. Amongst the small number of animals that experience difficulties during air transit, those that are sedated make up a significant percentage."

Airlines will not accept any pets that appear sedated. Furthermore, if our agents notice any signs of sedation upon pick-up, we will not agree to send the pet. Simply put, there are too many risks involved and our main concern is the safety of your pet.

We understand the process of traveling can be stressful, and in those cases we recommend an anti-anxiety option. From drops you can add to food to sprays that are applied to fur, there are a variety of anti-anxiety options to choose from. While it may work for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. Use products on the lead up to your move to test its effectiveness, as some can produce unwanted side effects.

By far the best way to help reduce stress on the day of travel is kennel acclimation – we cannot stress this enough!

Still have questions? Looking for help with an upcoming move? Contact PetRelocation for a pet travel consultation today.


Photo credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono/Flickr

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PetRelocation Team




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