Air Travel for Dogs: Costs, Safety, and Shipping Services Explained

Overview of Shipping Dogs by Air

small dog shipping by air

Planning to ship your beloved dog by air? Whether you're relocating to a new city or country, you'll want to ensure your canine companion's journey is safe, comfortable, and affordable. To help you navigate the complexities of international and domestic dog shipping, we've compiled a detailed guide covering the key steps, requirements, and costs involved in the process.


How to Ship a Dog Safely

Here’s an overview of the basic process involved with safely shipping a dog by air:

Research Country Import Requirements:

  • Every country has unique import regulations for dogs. Start by researching the rules for your destination, including required vaccines, health certificates, and possible quarantine measures. Familiarize yourself with the import rules for your destination country.

Check Your Dog’s Vaccination Status:

  • At a minimum, your dog will need an updated rabies vaccine. Additional vaccines or a rabies titer test may be necessary, depending on the destination. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog's vaccinations are up to date.
  • Plan Your Timeline: Building a timeline for your dog's travel preparations is essential. Most international dog transport requires one to three months of planning. For rabies-free countries like Australia and New Zealand, allow at least six months.

Choose the Right Travel Crate:

  • Invest in an airline-approved travel crate that meets your dog's size requirements. Begin crate-training early to help your dog feel comfortable in their travel crate.

Book a Pet-Friendly Airline:

  • Not all airlines prioritize pet safety. Research and choose an airline with a strong track record for safely transporting animals. Consider pet-friendly airlines that offer climate-controlled cargo holds and trained staff.

Consider Professional Assistance:

  • If you're new to dog shipping or overwhelmed by the logistics, consider hiring a professional pet transport service to manage the details and ensure your dog's well-being.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Dog by Air?

The cost of shipping a dog by air varies based on several factors, including your dog’s size, origin and destination, import permits, government endorsements, and more. Here are some key cost components:

  • Travel Crate: The cost of an airline-approved travel crate depends on the size of your dog.
  • Airfare: The price of your dog’s airline ticket is based on the crate's size, as larger dogs require more space in the cargo hold.
  • Pre-Move Vet Visits: Budget for vet visits to update vaccines, obtain health certificates, and complete any tests or treatments.
  • Import Permits & Health Documents: International moves may require import permits, health documents, and endorsements by relevant government bodies (e.g., USDA).
  • Customs Fees & Quarantine: Expect tariffs, customs fees, or taxes upon arrival, and budget for possible quarantine fees if applicable.

To make things even more confusing, the costs of each of the above items will vary from one move to the next, depending on various factors. For example:

Your Pet’s Size

  • The price of your pet’s airline ticket is based on the size of its crate, so the larger and taller your pet is, the more space they require in cargo and the more their airfare will cost.

Origin and Destination

  • Generally, the closer you are to a large airport on either side, the less expensive the trip will be. If you’re starting and ending in smaller towns that require a bit of driving on either end or if the trip requires multiple flights, the overall costs will be higher.

Import Permits

  • Moving internationally? Your new home country might require obtaining formal permission from the government in the form of an import permit, which adds expense. 

Government Endorsements for Health Certificates

  • It’s often necessary to obtain official health paperwork from your vet’s office, and in many cases, these documents must be certified by the relevant government body, for example, the USDA.

Airport Check-In

  • It can often take a few hours to complete the check-in process, which requires your agent's specialized assistance to ensure all paperwork is in order (and, of course, to take good care of your pet during this time).

Customs Clearance

Upon landing, it may not be over yet -- in many cases, entry procedures must be negotiated by a customs agent, and there may be tariffs, customs fees, or taxes to pay at this time.

Ready to learn more about how much it will cost to ship your dog? Learn more about how our services work.

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