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? Check out my tips on flying a dog from USA to UK.

Note: Due to the current COVID-19 situation, many airlines have temporarily suspended or modified their pet transport options, especially in the hold. Check directly with each airline for their current arrangements and be prepared for changes. Additionally, a number of European airlines are no longer accepting dogs on flights to the USA, due to recent restrictions on importing dogs to the USA from high rabies countries.

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 you required. For dogs travelling to the European Union (the majority of countries in Europe), I list the steps required in this post.

If you’re travelling directly from the USA, the steps are quite simple (and you can skip a couple):

  1. Microchip your dog
  2. Vaccinate your dog against rabies
  3. Complete an animal health certificate

Your dog is likely to already be 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”). This needs to be done by a accredited veterinarian within 10 days of your arrival in the EU. However, you also need to get it certified by a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services endorsement office. This can be tricky if there isn’t one located near you; if posting the certificate for endorsement, use expedited mail including tracking. Note that many offices require appointments. There is a $38 USD fee per endorsement.

Pet travel to Europe
The USDA APHIS office in Los Angeles, near LAX

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 trouble 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.

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 Trans-Atlantic 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.

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.

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.

If you are happy for your pet to fly in the hold, including if your dog is too big to fly in the cabin, you have a larger range of options. Check with the individual airline for their pet policy. If flying 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.

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 Trans-Atlantic flights. Here are some details about each airline:

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 $148 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 €200 (about $236 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 $115 USD is charged to/from the East Coast, $126 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 connecting to or from a United Airlines flight.

For information on the pet policies of more European flag-carriers, check out my guide, including which airlines allow pets in the cabin.

Flying with a European Budget Airline

Unfortunately, not many of the budget European airlines permit dogs to fly on Trans-Atlantic 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

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.

Heading to Europe during summer? Review my tips on flying with a dog in summer

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

What About Emotional Support Animals?

If your pet is recognised as an emotional support animal in the USA but is too large to normally travel in the cabin of a plane (over 17.6lb for most European airlines), carefully check their policy regarding emotional support animals. Some of the European airlines will allow emotional support animals to travel in the cabin on flights to and from the USA, but not always on other flights in Europe. Check their online pet policy or call a customer contact centre for clarification.

Prefer to cruise rather than fly? Find out more about the kennels aboard the Queen Mary 2 Trans-Atlantic 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.
  • 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

Note: Due to temporary restrictions in the USA on importing dogs from high-risk rabies countries, some European airlines have stopped flying dogs to the USA, making this process more complicated. Additionally, if you are located in a high-risk rabies country, which include some Eastern European countries, there are restrictions on taking dogs to the USA, see here.

The process to return to the USA with your dog is quite simple. I discuss the vaccines and paperwork required in this post. Note that except for a few Eastern European countries (which are considered high risk, see this list), a rabies vaccination certificate is no longer required to fly from most European countries to the USA.

Most airlines will also require a health certificate, that 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.

I’ve also recently found out that Italy requires a pet export certificate, including a visit to the local ASL (“Azienda Sanitaria Locale”) office. (For more details, click here.) However, I haven’t heard of this being required when leaving any other European country.

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How to Fly to Europe with Your Dog from the USA

17 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…

  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!

    • 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!

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  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

  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.

    • 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.

    • 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!


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