Pet Expats - Moving Abroad with Your Pets

When I first considered moving abroad to Uzbekistan, one of the first questions my boyfriend had was - "What are we going to do about Milo?" To me, the answer was quite simple - Milo was going with me. Milo is my 40 lb. beagle/terrier mutt mix adopted from Earth Angels. I knew that getting him to Tashkent was going to be a little tricky, but I was more than willing to spare no expense doing it. I've had Milo since he was approximately 8 months old. I simply could not imagine leaving him behind. Now, two countries in - Uzbekistan and Thailand - we are travelling pros.  I did this on my own, though it is possible to hire pet movers to help you relocate your pet.   It can be quite expensive, depending on where you are going.  Here are some quick do-it-yourself pre-flight tips to get you and your pet up in the friendly skies. This information will mainly be for dogs and cats, check the links for other resources for exotic species/reptiles/birds.

Before your flight

  • Check the requirements of the country you are travelling to.  Some countries require a pre-import permit, quarantine, blood titer test, etc. PetTravel is a good resource and is updated regularly.
  • Check the requirements of the airline you plan to fly.  Some may have breed restrictions or weather restrictions.
  • If your pet is more than 10 lbs, they will most likely need to travel as checked baggage or cargo. Milo travelled in the hold and has been totally fine both flights. The hold is pressurized like the cabin and temp controlled.
  • If travelling with you in the cabin, make sure you purchase an approved airline carrier/bag for pets.
  • If they must travel in the hold, make sure it is an approved hard sided crate.
  • Health check w/ updated annual vaccinations (Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Hepatitis) not more than one year before departure.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about the USDA travel forms. Once your vet completes it, these MUST be stamped by the USDA vet and returned to you within 10 days of travel. 

Day of travel

  • No food four hours before departure.
  • Take your dog out for a good long walk.
  • Milo can get anxious, so I fed him some organic calming pills made of tryptophan (turkey fat). It is not advised to give them any sort of prescription anti-anxiety drug as breathing patterns change in the air and this can be fatal.
  • Arrive early for international flights to get yourself checked in. We got there 4 hours before departure and I was grateful because the line got very long.
  • Have your documents clipped together w/ your ticket. Keep extras in your carry-on.
  • The airline crew will typically take your pet at that time - say your goodbyes and breathe easy!

When you arrive

  • If they traveled in the hold, they will usually be at the oversized baggage claim.
  • Have your documents ready for the veterinarian to inspect.
  • Pay whatever import fees they might charge
  • Enjoy your new home.

Milo enjoys the exchange rate

Sample of the steps I took when Milo and I flew to Uzbekistan

  • I had my vet complete his annual exam and shots. She advised me on the forms for the USDA and I had to go back to her to complete them so they're within the allotted timeframe.
  • I called Turkish Airlines and Uzbekistan Airways - Turkish was a little iffy and couldn't guarantee that he would be allowed to fly in the hold.  Uzbekistan Airways was more confident and stated that they charged only double the excess baggage rate ($300).  
  • He already had a proper crate so I made sure we had the travel approved water bottle. I taped warning signs around the crate as well as my information w/ ticket number and extra food in a ziploc bag.
  • On the day of travel - we arrived at JFK 4 hours early. 
  • The flight had a short layover in Riga, Latvia and landed in Tashkent in 15 hours.
  • He came out last at the baggage claim, but he was totally fine.
  • We were taken to the Airport Vet office and my school's overseas gov't liaison handled the translation, etc.
  • We were settled in our new home in Tashkent in no time.

The day to day

  • Quality of services will vary. In Uzbekistan, a good vet was hard to find - but when you did link up with a good one, they were CHEAP and thorough. In Thailand, great vets aplenty and very affordable, even the ones geared towards ex-pats. Milo has needed treatment for minor ailments, his round of shots, etc. and nothing ever cost more than $200, even for the more serious procedures.
  • Quality of food can vary. The cheap stuff (Pedigree) is easy to find and affordable, but not always good for the gut. In Uzbekistan, I made Milo's food every week.  In Thailand, the humidity causes a lot of allergies so I switched him to the raw diet. He's been doing well on it.
  • Uzbekistan - no dog hotel, but I had a great housekeeper who kept an eye on him whenever I had to travel.  Thailand - many dog hotels. My regular spot for Milo is Doggie Doo. They have a pool, large play area, etc.  For longer stays, I love K9 Bangkok. Patrick, owner of K9 Bangkok, helped me BIG TIME with getting Milo into the country.

As you can see - Milo and I - have been happy with our overseas moves. I hope you found this guide helpful. Please check the Expat Resources in the Links section for pet travel resources.  Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions or comments!

Come, roam with me...