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How Can I Reduce the Stress of an International Move on My Pet?

Published on: April 8, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

cocker-spaniel-carThere’s no question an international move can be stressful – for every member of your family, including your dog or cat. Here are some tips to help your pet weather the experience with a wagging tail or a nice, loud purr.

Give them plenty of love and affection before the move

Before you move your pet, don’t let them feel left out. Even though you’re busy, make sure feeding stays on schedule and any other pet routines stay on track. Mark off time to have some fun – petting or playing where they can be the center of attention.

Keep them away from the hubbub

The less disruption, the better. On the most chaotic days, when you’re expecting unfamiliar people or activities pursuant to your move, arrange for your pet to go to day care, visit a neighbor, or take them for a long walk or a little road trip if you can be away yourself – anything so they aren’t in the middle of all that stressful coming and going

Help them get used to their travel carrier

A travel kennel they can identify as “theirs” will really help. Since you’re required to use an extra heavy-duty IATA-approved kennel to ship any dog or cat as cargo or baggage, research what you need and acquire the kennel at least a month before you plan to depart. Let your pet sit in it, sleep in it, etc. so it picks up their scent and yours. You can add a crate pad and thin blanket, t-shirt or towel to make it more comfortable.

Special considerations for snub-nosed dogs and cats

Bulldogs, pugs and the many other breeds of snub-nosed or brachycephalic dogs and cats can experience respiratory difficulties in any situation, due to the physical structure of their faces. The added stress and flying conditions can exacerbate those problems.

Stress causes airways to collapse to some extent, similar to what happens when you suck too hard on a straw. That can cause dogs to collapse or overheat. Snub-noses animals are often more sensitive to changes in air quality or temperature, which can be common on airplanes in the cabin as well as in the hold, even though these areas are pressurized and temperature-controlled.

For this reason, it’s important that any padding you add to your pet’s travel kennel not be so thick or heavy so that it would increase their risk of breathing problems. Learn more about air travel safety for snub-nosed breeds.

Consider bringing your pet onboard with you.

Depending on the airline and destination country, if your pet is small enough, they may be able to travel right with you in the main cabin. Some airlines will not allow snub-nosed animals to travel as excess baggage or cargo, but may allow in-cabin travel.

This option can significantly reduce your stress level, too, because instead of wondering how your pet is doing, you can talk to them and even pet them (no removing them from their carrier, though). As we already mentioned above, this may not be possible if your airline or destination country does not allow pets to travel in-cabin. 

Work with your vet early.

You have to follow specific timelines when completing international pet health paperwork, but anything you can get out of the way early will lighten the last-minute load. Make sure your pet has a working microchip and updated vaccinations. Ensure your pet is in the best possible health to fly, because age and pre-existing health issues can contribute to stress. Be sure to give them a fresh nail trim for safety and better footing in their carrier prior to their travels.

Try to relax yourself

Dogs and cats can sense if you're stressed, and they can feed off of that energy. If you’re freaking out about your move, they are more likely to do so, too. Following these tips will give both of you more confidence about the move and help you travel less stressfully.

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