Rachel is a stay-at-home pet mom, caring for her dog, cat, turtle, tortoise, and fish. She's a content writer in various niches but most notably in the pet field, educating pet parents on the health and wellbeing of their furry friends. When she's not writing, she's reading, playing video games, or organizing something.

The Complete Guide to Flying with A Dog to America

Rachel Poli Author
May 6 ·
flying with a dog to America

Sometimes you might adopt a pup from another country or you might have taken your dog on vacation before. But, whether your dog is from the United States or not, there are a lot of requirements you need to meet when bringing your dog into the country. So, here’s everything you need to know about flying with your dog to America.

Before You Do Anything, Talk to Your Dog’s Veterinarian

When it comes to traveling with your pets, you’ll need to talk to your vet about it first. No matter how you’re getting to your destination (flying, long car trip, train, boat, etc.) or where your destination is (another state or another country), your vet needs to help you.

If your dog is healthy enough, then your vet can ensure they’re up to date on their vaccinations to meet the airline and United States requirements.

So, call your vet and tell them that you and your dog will be traveling to the United States. America as a whole and every state and airline have different requirements to bring a dog on board. Together, you and your vet can ensure your dog is well prepared.

For example, your dog may need the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Health certificates
  • Microchips (for identification)
  • Permits
  • Vaccinations

Remember, some of these requirements may change from time to time.

High-Risk Diseases

For instance, in 2021, the CDC in the United States halted all dogs from entering America due to an increase of rabies being found in foreign dogs. Since then, dogs are now allowed back into the United States as long as they have proper vaccinations to combat such diseases.

Other diseases require special permission as well.

For example, if a dog comes from a country where screwworm exists, it needs a veterinarian to clear them of this disease to ensure they’re healthy.

If the dog has screwworm, they need to quarantine and ensure they’re 100% healthy before coming to the United States.

Foot and Mouth disease and tapeworm are also illnesses that require a vet check.

What Are the Various Requirements Your Dogs Need to Get into the United States?

Once you bring your doggo to the vet and you’re sure they’re up to date with their vaccinations and are healthy enough to travel, double-check where you’re headed and how you’ll get there.

For instance, each state in the United States has different requirements for foreign dogs to enter.

The Different States Have Different Requirements

Every state has its own set of requirements for allowing live animals into the state. They need to be careful about where the dog comes from, especially if it’s from a different country or a high-risk area of rabies or other canine diseases.

You can check the USDA APHIS website and find the state you’re bringing your dog to view their requirements. Alternatively, you can ask your airline.

For example, California requires dogs four months and older to have the rabies vaccination. Also, they need a health certificate. However, if the dog has previously lived in California, they don’t need a health certificate.

On the other hand, if you bring your dog to Massachusetts, they need to have a health certificate. Also, the dog needs to have had the rabies shot within 12 months of entering the state.

If your dog doesn’t have the rabies vaccine (or they’re not old enough yet), they have to receive the shot within six months of entering Massachusetts.

On the other hand, Texas doesn’t require a health certificate at all. Instead, your dog needs a pet passport or proof of their rabies vaccination, and that’s it.

So, remember to look up where you’re headed and follow their guidelines and requirements accordingly.

What About Alaska?

Traveling with your dog to Alaska brings its own set of requirements. For example, your dog will need a health certificate and a rabies vaccination.

However, if your pup is under 12 weeks old or cannot get the rabies vaccine due to a medical condition, you’ll need to get a rabies exempt form.

Alaska wants your dog to be as safe and comfortable as possible. So, you’re more than welcome to leave your pup under your set in a travel-safe carrier in the cabin with you.

On the other hand, if your doggo can’t fit, they have a climate-controlled cargo hold where the dog will be safe. Once your dog is on board, you’ll get a card letting you know that your dog has been safely brought onto the plane.

This is called “Fur-st Class” and will cost you about $100. But for your furry friend’s safety, it’s worth it. 

What About Hawaii?

Hawaii, on the other hand, has many hoops to jump through. However, they take the health and well-being of their animal seriously.

So, you’ll need to have your pup thoroughly checked over by a vet before entering. You’ll also need a health certificate, and your dog will need the rabies vaccination.

If they don’t have the rabies shot, your pup won’t be able to enter. Also, if they are too young, they’ll need to quarantine upon arriving in Hawaii.

In addition, no matter the size of your dog, your pup will only be allowed to ride in the cabin with you if you are coming from one of the United States. Otherwise, dogs under 70 pounds must be check-in baggage or placed in the cargo hold.

If your doggo exceeds 70 pounds, they’ll have to fly in the cargo hold.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly Your Dog to America?

You can expect to spend anywhere between $500 and $1,000 to fly your dog to America.

However, this cost will depend on a few factors and will also depend on which airline you take. Some planes will be cheaper than others.

For example, some airlines charge a one-way fee to bring your dog on board. So, when going back home, you’ll need to pay the fee again.

This fee may be between $125 and $150. So, you could be looking at about $250 to $300 roundtrip.

The fee might also vary, depending on how big your dog is. For example, if you have a large dog, they’ll need to go into the cargo hold. Should this happen, you’ll need to pay to put them in there since they’ll be taking up space.

On the other hand, if you have a smaller dog, you can either pay a fee to check them in as baggage or, if the airline allows, you can place them under your seat in the cabin.

Also, you’ll need to get a travel-safe carrier for your dog. These carriers can cost anywhere between $30 and $80. Once again, the bigger the dog, the more expensive it’ll be.

Finally, most states require a health certification and the dog to be up to date on all of their vaccinations. The average medical cost per year can be up to $615 if they’re healthy. This price includes all of their shots, boosters, and physical examinations.

If your dog isn’t up to par with their vet visits, you might need to pay for some surprise vaccines.

This will add up quickly, causing you to spend up to $1,000.  

Flying With Your Dog to America

In addition to the United States and each state has different requirements, each airline has its own set of requirements.

So, depending on which plane you fly on, you might need to gather more information for them about your pet. 

Also, each airline will prefer where your dog goes on the plane during the flight.

There is no right or wrong way for your doggo to travel. For example, you may decide how you want the dog to fly, or the airline may tell you where the dog needs to go.

For instance, depending on the dog’s size, they can fly in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold. If you have a small dog breed, they should be able to fit into the cabin with you. Otherwise, if you have a medium or large dog breed, they’ll likely have to go into the cargo hold.

Flying Your Dog In Cabin With You

If given a choice and your dog can fit, you can undoubtedly bring your dog into the cabin with you. This might be one of the safest options for your pup since you’ll be together. They’ll feel secure knowing you’re near, and you can keep an eye on them.

Most airlines don’t mind this and will allow you and your dog to be together as long as the dog is a small breed under 15 to 20 pounds.

However, your pup needs to be in its travel-safe carrier during the flight.

Flying Your Dog in the Cargo Hold

On the other hand, dogs may travel better in the cargo hold. According to the International Air Transport Association, this area is well-ventilated, dark, and quiet. So, it may be less stressful for your dog.

With a suitable travel carrier, your dog will be safe and secure in the cargo hold.

However, this is certainly something you’ll want to talk about with your vet and the airline first. Some airplanes will help care for your dog, while others will hold you completely responsible.

Also, if your dog has separation anxiety from you, your vet might suggest not bringing your dog at all or finding another method of transportation. Otherwise, your dog might get too stressed out being away from you and in an unfamiliar place.

You Are Responsible For Your Dog

Regardless of how your dog travels on the plane, you are 100% responsible for your dog during the flight. If you have a layover or a connecting flight, you’ll need to care for your dog.

This includes bringing them out to go the bathroom, stretch their legs, or have a water break. Then, you need to get them back into their carrier and onboard in time for the next flight.

Finally, your dog may travel in the cargo hold on a separate flight that only flies cargo. If this is the case, you’ll need to discuss food and water with your veterinarian, depending on how long the flight is. Your dog won’t be able to eat or drink during the flight.

Also, you’ll need to arrange a time to drop off and pick up your dog once the airplanes land at the final destination. 

Keep in mind that most airlines do not allow pets to travel by flight between May and September.

Since these are considered the hottest months of the year for the Northern Hemisphere, it may not be safe for the dog to travel. They could get overheated and either get sick or possibly die.

Always Keep Your Dog’s Comfort a Priority

Whether your dog travels on the airplane, you want to make sure they’re mentally prepared for the flight.

It’s one thing to ensure they meet all the requirements to board the airplane and get into the United States. However, it’s another situation to ensure your dog is mentally (and physically) prepared for flight.

Flying on an airplane is scary for most humans, let alone dogs who don’t understand what a plane is, how it works, or where they’re going.

For instance, they may feel safer and more comfortable in the cargo hold, but if your dog has separation anxiety or is afraid to try new things, the dark cargo hold (and being away from you) may stress them further.

So, here are some tips to prepare your dog to fly:

  • Purchase plane tickets that have as few layovers and connections as possible
  • Choose arrival times to avoid extreme heat or cold
  • Train your dog to be more comfortable in their carier
  • Discuss any anxiety needs with your vet beforehand
  • If your dog goes into the cabin, check-in as late as possible
  • If your dog goes into the cargo hold, check-in as early as possible
  • Walk your dog before your flight and immediately after arrival
  • Avoid food and drink a few hours before the flight

These tips will help reduce stress for your dog, and they’ll also keep them as healthy as possible.

For example, avoiding the heat or cold during your arrival will ensure your pet is comfortable. If you’re arriving in a hot area, book a later flight to arrive at night when it’s cooler.

On the other hand, if your dog has anxiety, discuss what you can do with your vet. For example, sedatives are not a good idea because they could harm your dog while flying. You can go over some other options to keep your pup from being too stressed.

Overall, you want to keep the flight as safe and positive as possible for your pup. First, however, you need to keep up with the country and state you’re entering and the airline’s requirements.

Should You Bring Your Dog into the United States?

The short answer is yes. You can certainly bring your dog to America. First, however, make sure that you talk to your vet and put together all the requirements for the airline you’re taking and the state you’ll be entering.

Rachel Poli Author
Rachel is a stay-at-home pet mom, caring for her dog, cat, turtle, tortoise, and fish. She's a content writer in various niches but most notably in the pet field, educating pet parents on the health and wellbeing of their furry friends. When she's not writing, she's reading, playing video games, or organizing something.
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