Flying to Europe with a Dog from the USA

Europe is the most dog-friendly part of the world to travel with a dog. It’s no wonder then that if you live in the USA, that you might want to consider taking your dog along with you on a European vacation. But how easy is it to fly to Europe with a dog from the USA? And what other considerations do you need to keep in mind when flying to Europe with a Dog?

Specifically travelling to the UK? Also check out my tips on flying a dog from USA to UK.

Flying to Europe with a Dog

Preparations Before Flying to Europe with a Dog

One of the first things you need to consider when you decide to take your dog to Europe, is the veterinary and paperwork preparations that are required. For dogs travelling to the European Union (the majority of countries in Europe), I list all the steps in this post, plus briefly cover the requirement for other non-EU countries.

If you’re travelling directly from the USA to the EU (and most other European countries), the steps are quite simple:

  1. Microchip your dog
  2. Vaccinate your dog against rabies
  3. Complete an animal health certificate
Dachshund Vaccination at Veterinarian
Your dog will need to be vaccinated against rabies © Depositphotos

Your dog is likely already already vaccinated against rabies, but if it doesn’t have a microchip, then it will need to be microchipped and then re-vaccinated. Note that the microchip needs to be ISO compliant and readable by standard microchip readers. If your dog is being vaccinated against rabies for the first time, the vaccine needs to be done at least 21 days before arriving in Europe.

The trickiest part is getting an EU animal health certificate (or “EU Annex IV”), or the alternative health certificate for your destination country. This needs to be done by a accredited veterinarian within 10 days of your arrival in Europe. However, you also need to get it certified by a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services endorsement office.

There are two options available: the paperwork can be submitted using the the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS), or else you can ship the paperwork to the USDA Endorsement Office serving your state, using expedited mail including tracking. The current fee is a $38 USD fee per certificate.

Pet travel to Europe
The animal health certificate will need to be certified at a USDA APHIS office

There are also a handful of European countries that require your dog to have a worming treatment done by a veterinarian between 24 hours and 5 days of arriving in them: Finland, Ireland, Malta, Norway and the UK.

Due to the hassle of getting an animal health certificate endorsed by USDA, many people who travel to Europe multiple times with their pet get an EU pet passport. This can then be used in place of getting an EU animal health certificate. The only complication then is that you’ll need to get your pet’s rabies vaccines in Europe from now on, as only vets in the EU can add records to the passport.

Dog passports
It might be worthwhile getting an EU Pet Passport if you regularly visit Europe

If you aren’t travelling to the EU with your dog, carefully check the rules listed for your destination country. A good resource is the APHIS Pet Travel website – select your destination country.

Finding a Pet-Friendly Airline to Fly to Europe

The next important step is finding a pet-friendly airline to fly yourself and your dog to Europe. Unfortunately, some airlines that normally allow pets to fly in cabin, don’t allow this on Transatlantic flights, in particular American airlines.

Flying with a US Airline

If you are wanting to fly with your dog in the cabin, not all American airlines permit this on Transatlantic flights. American Airlines clearly states in their pet policy that they don’t allow pets in the cabin on Transatlantic flights, due to the flight duration.

American Airlines Plane
American Airlines doesn’t allow pets in the cabin on Transatlantic flights

One American airline that definitely allows pets in the cabin on flights to Europe is Delta. For pets in the cabin, there is no maximum weight, just a maximum kennel size that depends on the flight (check at the time of booking). A charge of $200 USD applies and a maximum of four pets are allowed in the cabin. Read their pet policy.

Delta Airlines Plane Wing
You can fly with your pet in the cabin to Europe with Delta

For awhile, United Airlines also didn’t allow pets in the cabin on Transatlantic flights, but I’ve heard reports they allow this again. If you fly with your pet in the cabin with United Airlines, a charge of $125 USD applies. There’s no maximum weight, just a maximum kennel size. See their full pet policy for in-cabin pets.

United Airlines Plane
Check the latest policy of United Airlines

If your pet is too large to fly in the cabin, there are currently limited options for pets to fly in the hold on US airlines. Both Delta Cargo and United Airlines (through United PetSafe) have not accepted bookings for pets since 2020, while it’s unclear if American Airlines Cargo currently accept pet bookings. There are some exceptions for active-duty US military and US State Department Foreign Service personnel travelling on official orders.  

Another alternative is to fly with Air Canada. Air Canada permits pets in the cabin on flights to and from Europe, with no maximum weight, just a maximum kennel size. See their pet policy.

Additionally, Air Canada is one of the few airlines that accept pets in the cabin and as checked baggage on flights out of the UK, instead of only as cargo, as is the case with Delta. (Although pets still need to fly as cargo on flights to the UK.)

Flying with a European Flag-Carrier Airline

In general, the European flag-carrier airlines are most likely to allow your pet to fly in the cabin with you to Europe. Based on discussions with other travellers flying from the USA to Europe with their dog, the most commonly recommended airlines are Air France, KLM and Lufthansa.

All three airlines allow dogs to fly both in the cabin and in the hold on their Transatlantic flights. Here are some details about each airline.

European Airlines That Allow Dogs in Cabin
Multiple European airlines will fly dogs in the cabin to Europe

Air France: Dogs up to a maximum weight of 8kg (17lb), including carrier, are permitted in the cabin, with a fee equivalent to €125 (about $130 USD) charged. Note that pets are not permitted in business class on intercontinental flights. Dogs up to 75kg (165.3lb) are permitted in the hold, with a fee equivalent to €400 (about $418 USD) charged. It’s possible to buy travel containers for the cabin and hold directly off Air France for delivery to the USA. Read their full pet policy.

KLM: KLM also has a maximum weight of 8kg (17.6lb) for pets in the cabin and 75kg (165.3lb) for pets in the hold, including their carrier or crate. The charge for each pet depends on your departure and destination airport. Once again, pets are not permitted in business class on intercontinental flights, due to the seat design. Read their pet policy.

Lufthansa: Lufthansa also has a weight limited of 8kg (17.6lb) including carrier for pets in the cabin. For transport in the cabin, a fee of €100 ($104 USD) is charged to/from the East Coast, €110 USD ($115 USD) to/from the West Coast. Prices for pets in the hold depend on the crate size. Read their pet policy, plus additional information if you are flying an animal in the hold and connecting to or from a United Airlines flight.

For information on the pet policies of more European airlines, check out my extensive guide, which details which European airlines allow pets in the cabin.

Flying with a European Business Class Airline

A recent addition to the list of dog-friendly airlines flying between the the USA and Europe, is business-class only airline, La Compagnie. This France-based airline offers up to two flights daily between New York and Paris, plus seasonal flights to Nice. Perks include full-flat seats (although read on…), complimentary high-speed wi-fi and fine cuisine.

Inside a La Compagnie flight © La Compagnie

The biggest advantage of booking your pet to fly on La Compagnie is that dogs and cats up to 33lbs (15kg) are allowed to fly with you in the cabin, far higher than the normal limits. They need to fly in an aerated pet carrier, with maximum dimensions of 21 ⅔ in x /13 ¾ in x / 9 ⅚ in (55 x 35 x 25 cm).

There’s a limit of one pet per passenger, with a maximum of three pets permitted on each flight. You’ll need to book your pet at least 48 hours in advance (online or via the call centre) and pay a fee equivalent to 10% of your own ticket.

The only downside? If flying with a pet, you can’t fully recline your seat. Plus they count as your item of cabin luggage, so you’ll only be able to bring a small personal item in addition into the cabin.

Flying with a European Budget Airline

Unfortunately, not many of the budget European airlines permit dogs to fly on Transatlantic flights, even if they permit dogs to fly on their flights within Europe. I found this to be problematic when I was flying one-way from Europe to the USA with my dog, and the flag-carrier airlines were mainly charging astronomical prices for one-way flights.

The main option I uncovered was XL Airways, a small airline that operated out of Paris, flying to and from New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, XL Airways has now ceased operations, so there’s no budget airline options that I’m aware of.

Take dog to Europe
Flying with a pet in the cabin on board XL Airways

Try to Minimise the Flight Duration

Another consideration to keep in mind is the length of a flight. When I last flew from Europe to the USA with my dog, I purposely organised my travels to fly from Paris to New York, to minimise the flight duration. This is especially important if you want to fly with your pet in the cabin.

In order to keep your flight duration to a minimum, consider taking a connecting flight on either end. For example, firstly fly from the West Coast to the East Coast, before flying on to Europe. Also consider taking a second flight within Europe to get to your final destination. This is also an option if you don’t find a pet-friendly airline that flies directly to your final destination.

There’s not much room for your dog on a long flight…

Choose the Time of Day Carefully

If flying with your animal in the hold to Europe during the summer months, keep in mind temperature restrictions may apply. Perhaps consider taking an overnight flight that departs late in the day then arrives early in the morning in Europe. Read more of my tips for flying with a dog in summer.

What About Emotional Support Animals?

There are now limited options to fly in the cabin of a plane with your dog as an emotional support animal. Generally your pet will now need to fly as a pet, either in the cabin if they are less than the weight limit (if applicable) or in the hold, and pay the appropriate fees.

Some European airlines previously allowed emotional support animals to travel in the cabin on flights to and from the USA, but not always on other flights in Europe. Check if this policy still applies, as this is likely to change, the same as for American airlines.

Prefer to cruise rather than fly? Find out more about the kennels aboard the Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossings

Preparing Your Dog for Their Flight to Europe

Preparing your pet for a long flight to Europe can be daunting, even if you have previously flown with your pet. Based on my experience flying with my dog multiple times on long flights, these are my tips:

  • Adjust your pet’s meal times if required, feeding them at least a few hours before the flight, not immediately before it, in case of an upset stomach. Don’t give them too much to drink either.
  • Take your dog to a pet relief area as close to the flight as possible, either immediately before boarding or before going through security. This is especially problematic at European airports which tend not to have designated pet relief areas. Generally you need to take your pet outside the terminal building to some grass.
One of the pet relief areas at Washington Dulles Airport
  • This is a little easier to handle if your dog has been trained to use puppy pads. Some other travellers travelling with a pet in the cabin report using the plane’s bathroom to give their dog a break mid-flight. My dog isn’t trained at this (although is fine to hold on for 8 hours, if given minimal fluids), plus those bathrooms are tiny!
  • On the flight, dogs travelling in the hold should have a water container attached to their crate. In the cabin, feel free to give your dog some fluids, but don’t give them too much. Some other travellers use ice cubes.
  • Get your dog used to their crate or carrier ahead of time, regardless of whether they are travelling in the cabin or hold. Hopefully your dog just falls asleep and sleeps for most of the flight. To aid with this, either give them a big walk beforehand or fly overnight, when they’d normally be sleeping.
Dog in carrier bag
Encourage your dog to spend time in their carrier prior to the long flight
  • If your dog is travelling in the hold, sedation is not usually recommended. (Sedatives can affect your dog differently at altitude, plus there is no-one to assist if something goes wrong.) If you are concerned, speak to your veterinarian ahead of time, allowing time to test treatments. Most dogs cope better than you expect.

See also my guide to flying with your dog in the cabin in Europe.

Returning to the USA with Your Dog

The process to return to the USA with your dog was previously quite simple. For full details, see this post. However, this has been complicated by the temporary restrictions in the USA on importing dogs from high-risk rabies countries, with has no end date yet for these restrictions.

Most countries in Europe are not high-risk rabies countries, so you still should be fine. The only European countries that are listed as high-risk for rabies are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. See the latest list.

Istanbul by Night
Turkey is listed as a high-risk rabies country

Returning from Non High-Risk Rabies Countries

If you only visit countries that aren’t high-risk for rabies, you technically don’t require a rabies vaccination certificate to fly back to the USA. However, your airline may require a rabies certificate, such as United Airlines.

Your airline may also require a health certificate, that you you can get from any vet within Europe. Check with your individual airline about their requirements. Also double check if there are any state specific requirements.

It’s also worthwhile double-checking with your airline that they are fine to fly your pet to the USA. At least when the restrictions were introduced, some European airlines stopped flying pets to the USA, as they couldn’t ensure your pet hadn’t been in a high-risk rabies country within the last six months.

European Airlines that Allow Dogs in the Cabin
Make sure your airline is okay flying pets to the USA

Returning from High-Risk Rabies Countries

If you do visit a high-risk rabies country in Europe, you are fine to return to the USA, as long as your dog has a microchip, a valid US-issued rabies vaccination certificate and is at least 6 months old. They also need to be healthy on arrival and fly into one of the approved ports of entry.

If your dog does not have a valid US-issued rabies vaccination certificate, including if it expired while you were overseas, you will need to apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit. This includes if your dog visited any high-risk rabies countries in the last six month, not just if they are flying out of one back to the USA.

Returning from Italy

While most European countries don’t have any requirements for pets being exported out of the country, one exception is Italy. Pets flying out of Italy to countries outside of the EU, including to the USA, require a Pet Exxport Certificate.

Dog at Colosseum
Dogs flying out of Italy to the USA require a Pet Export Certificate

You will need to visit a local veterinarian to obtain a certificate of good health, then within 48 hours visit the local ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale), who will check your pet’s health and rabies certificates and issue an export certificate, for a small fee. For full details, see this US embassy website.

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How to Fly to Europe with Your Dog from the USA

23 thoughts on “Flying to Europe with a Dog from the USA”

  1. Nice breakout! We’re moving to England with our pup and have completed most of these steps. Now to just make it through customs…

    Reply
  2. Thanks!!What about ? cat!? I am not sure is same traveling with cat ! I will be traveling with my cat at spring from Austin, TX to Zagreb Croatia! What l need to do here before travel.thanks!

    Reply
    • Zee – Most of the same regulations apply for both cats and dogs. (Rules for more exotic pets vary by airline.) The main difference is that cats don’t require the worming that some dogs requires for countries like the UK. Enjoy your trip!

      Reply
  3. We traveled to Europe for a month leaving our Irish setter, Snacks Mc Reilly, at our trainer’s pet lodge. He was less traumatized than we were. We are almost 70, yet dream of returning to Europe one more time. We continue to think about the Pilgrimage to Santiago. How beautiful to imagine walking the Camino with Snacks! The reality is, we live in Spokane, Washington, the Pacific Northwest. We are thinking the flights there and back would be both unusual and cruel. Shared thoughts and experiences would be most welcome, informing us of the truth, either way.

    Reply
    • It would be amazing to walk the camino with your dog, but it’s not an easy decision to put them into the hold. For a long flight like that (or two flights), I would probably hold off unless you’re going to be in Europe for quite a while (longer than a month). Though it also depends on the age of your dog and whether they’ve flown before and how they’ve handled it.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for all the tips. However, american airlines does allow pets on flights to europe, not sure if they might have changed their policies since this was written.

    Reply
    • Thanks Melinda! I will go over this and review the options, once the current travel lockdowns are over. A number of the US airlines have restrictions but have changed them multiple times, so it’s hard to keep up.

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    • That’s what I’m wondering!! I heard recently, they weren’t allowing dogs, I guess that includes cats on international flights and had banned all other crazy animals in the USA.

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  5. I am getting ready to move from the USA to Italy for four years. I am taking my almost three year old; 125 pound Great Dane with me. He has never flown before. Any tips from seasoned fliers that have traveled with large dogs before? Thank you

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  6. I just completed a round-trip from the west coast USA to Athens, with a stop in Frankfurt. This blog and the reader comments helped me immensely, so I wanted to share my experience with others.

    We flew Lufthansa with our 4kg dog in the cabin. We did not feed her any breakfast the morning of our departure, but took her out for a walk and pee as usual. Check-in was easy and quick with the USDA signed health certificate and rabies vaccination certificate. No one measured our travel crate at check-in, nor did they weigh it or our dog. Our flight + wait around to board time was 13 hours from SFO to Frankfurt. On the flight, I gave our dog a 1/2 a Trazadone and offered her tiny sips of water, which she refused to drink. Upon landing for our connection, we had a 2.5 hour layover. Not enough time to leave the airport and return because the security line at customs was backed up. Our dog would not go pee on the marble floor of the airport. We boarded our flight from Frankfurt to Athens, and I gave her another 1/2 Trazadone and offered her water, which she accepted. I took out a pee pad and placed it at my feet on this flight, and snuck her out of her carrier and gave her the “go pee” command. She refused. So, back in the carrier she went for the rest of the flight, and I took her outside as soon as we landed and collected our luggage. She finally peed, after a full 19 hours of travel. (There is a green grassy area just in front of the Sofitel at the arrivals exit door in Athens.) During both flights, I kept her on my lap in her carrier and pet her the whole time. They flight attendants were strict about my keeping her in her carrier- but I snuck her out when they darkened the cabin and she slept under a blanket on my lap for about 3 or 4 hours of the journey. The same thing took place on our return home other than (a) they weighed our dog and carrier upon check-in and (b) the USDA agent asked to see her rabies certificate as we exited the airport in our home town. Yes, our dog once again held her pee and poop for 19 hours! Overall, flying with her was MUCH easier than I expected, and the paperwork/verification was a breeze.

    Reply
    • That’s great to hear, thanks for sharing! It’s surprising how long they can hold on, if there’s no grass to go on.

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    • Hi Anne, how were you able to get the USDA Health Certificate? Were you able to do it online or you had to go to an APHIS office to get it? Headed to France in November, your comment has been very helpful!

      Reply
  7. This is a solid article. Thank you so much for putting it together. We are putting our place on the market and just going to travel Europe with pups in tow. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Great article! My boyfriend and I have 2 golden retrievers, we don’t want to feel confined to road trips, thinking of Italy sometime this coming year…

    Reply
  9. Great article! We also have a long-haired miniature dachshund. He’s one year old and has traveled with us in cabin inside the USA. We are now preparing for a trip with him to Italy. Before departing overseas, we are stopping to visit family in various US states. Can we get the USDA vet visit and certification done in one US state but then fly out of a different state?

    Reply
    • I’m pretty certain that’s allowed, as some states don’t have a USDA office and many people take a domestic flight before an international flight. If you have any doubts, check with the USDA beforehand.

      Reply

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