A useful guide when preparing your pets for export

Useful guide on moving a pet to another country
Yorkie on the Move

So why would one need a guide/tips when moving pets from one country to another?

Emigrating, whether for a short-term job opportunity or a long-term change can be a stressful process. Pets are part of your family unit and your vet’s goal is to help you through the process of exporting your pet so that they can at least help carry some of the stress for you. Below are some useful tips from a qualified vet, Dr Karin Wilson.

If you know that you are emigrating or even if you are thinking about it in the future, preparation is everything. Preparing your pet for travel can take anywhere from three to eight months, so proper planning is vital.

Step one: Buy a plastic flip file so that you can keep all your pet’s documentation neat, orderly, and safe. This file must go with you to every vet visit when you start the travel preparation process. Treat this file like you would treat your passport.

Although not always essential, it is strongly recommended that you make use of a reputable pet travel agent in your country of origin and country of destination to assist with preparation and arrival. Most airlines will not allow a pet owner to book their pet’s flights. Customs clearance in some countries is complicated and requires a clearing agent. Countries can also change their pet import requirements overnight and it is the agent’s job to stay abreast of all the legalities and paperwork surrounding a successful and stress-free journey for your pet (and for you). Refer to Keringa Petwings for more useful information in this regard.


  • The first step for your pet is to have a microchip implanted or to scan and confirm that the existing microchip is in working order. No vaccinations, tests, or treatments are valid if they were done prior to a microchip being implanted.

  • You will require a microchip certificate for endorsement purposes. Please ensure that the microchip is registered (most companies have online registration) and that you have a digital copy. This will be the first document that you will insert into your file.

  • Make sure that all the details on the microchip certificate are 100% correct. All the details in your pet’s documents must correspond exactly (birthdates, owner names, colour, breed, etc.).

  • Special note: Many South African dogs are rescues and, therefore, referred to as “small/medium/large crossbreeds”. This is not a globally accepted breed description. Try to pick a breed that resembles your pet and mark it as an “Xyz” crossbreed (e.g., Labrador cross). Another option is to choose “Africanis” or “Africanis cross” as a breed, if applicable. However, be aware that some countries have breed bans so if your pet is crossed with a banned breed you may need to ask your vet or travel company’s advice.

Rabies Vaccinations:

  • Rabies is a very serious global concern due to its fatal zoonotic potential. If rabies is not present in the country to which your pet is travelling, the regulations around rabies titres and vaccinations are extremely stringent.

  • A rabies vaccination must be valid. This means that the initial (primary) rabies vaccination must have been boosted according to the manufacturer’s guidelines (these may be slightly different between vaccine brands but is usually between 30 to 365 days). Your rabies brand must remain the same. If you change vets and they use a different brand, you must ensure that the new brand of rabies vaccine is boosted correctly. Depending on your brand, after the initial booster, the rabies injection must be boosted every one to three years. When taking your pet for annual health check-ups, it is vital that you advise your vet that you are considering emigration.  A vaccination given by anyone other than a registered veterinarian is not considered valid.

  • Your pet’s vaccination book should always be in your pet’s “travel documentation file” and you should ensure that all the pet information in the front of the book corresponds with all other paperwork (microchip certificate, vet records, etc.).

  • If a booster injection is required, ensure that it is given BEFORE the due date in the vaccination book. Even one day over the due date renders the rabies vaccination invalid.

Rabies Titre Test:

  • Most countries, especially those free from the disease, require a rabies titre test (blood test) to be done. Most of these countries require that the rabies titre test is older than three calendar months from the date the blood was drawn before the health certificate can be processed prior to export. Some countries require that the rabies titre test is older than six calendar months, while other countries require you to have more than one titre test done.

  • Blood for the rabies titre test can only be drawn 31 days after the last valid rabies vaccine has been administered.

  • Most of these countries only accept rabies titres from Onderstepoort. Only a few European countries accept rabies titres from IDEXX Germany.

  • The results of these tests take approximately three to eight weeks. If for some reason your pet fails the titre test (in other words, your pet’s immunity against rabies is too low), your pet will require another rabies vaccine, a further 31-day waiting period, and blood drawn again thereafter. This is uncommon if a correct vaccine protocol has been followed but in some immunocompromised cases it can happen and this will, unfortunately, set their travel plans back by four months.

  • For most countries, titre tests can be done well in advance and will remain valid for as long as your pet receives its booster vaccines exactly as prescribed on their vaccination booklet (which must be based on the manufacturer’s guidelines). If you are planning to travel with your pet to a country that requires rabies titres in the next two years, it is recommended that you proceed with this step early to avoid unnecessary stress closer to the time.

  • Laboratory fees for titre testing are expensive so if you are working to a budget, contact your vet so that they can give you an estimate on the costs involved.

Other vaccines:

  • Generally, other vaccines are not required but keeping your pet’s regular core vaccines up to date is strongly recommended. Some countries require other vaccines (e.g., leptospirosis) which will be indicated on the import permit or health certificate. If your pet is going into quarantine or boarding kennels, a kennel cough vaccine may be required.

Import Permits:

  • Some countries require that an import permit is applied for prior to export. Please ensure that you research this before starting the preparation. Such an import permit needs to come from the state vet department of the country to which you are going.

Health Certificates and Movement Permits:

  • This will be part of your final steps before your pet’s departure. Different countries have different requirements for the time frames and validity of health certificates. Countries also require different health certificates. Please ensure that you research this prior to starting the preparation.

  • Health certificates are filled out by your private veterinarian. Please ensure that either you or your travel company has emailed your vet with the correct health certificate ahead of time.

  • If you are not travelling within five days of your pet, it is very important that you advise your pet travel agent and your vet as some countries require different permits and regulations to be followed in these cases.

Official Government Endorsement:

  • Most countries require that an official state vet endorses your pet’s documents prior to travel. Please ensure that you research this prior to starting the process. Visit Keringa Petwings for more information.

Tips to Help your Pet to Cope with the Stress of the Travel Process

Even the most chilled pets will pick up on the change in routine, the moving of boxes, and the general household stress that goes along with moving countries. Please follow the recommendations below to help your pet through this potentially stressful life transition:

  • Purchase your travel crate at least two to four weeks ahead of time so that you can make it feel like home to them. Let them sleep in it, feed them in it, give them their treats in it. It needs to become their “safe space” and not a big scary box.

  • Purchase a pheromone collar or spray to help your pet adapt, not only to the current changing environment but to the new environment that awaits as well.



  • If you have an anxious pet, please chat to your vet early on in the process so that they can prescribe medication to help them cope through the process.


In closing, pet travel requirements can vary vastly between countries – the most important aspect is to ensure that you understand what is required regarding your destination. Poor planning and lack of preparation can result in delays in the pet’s travel arrangements, extra expenses and frustrations, or even result in your pet having to be quarantined. Therefore, research and preparation are key. If you are thinking of emigrating contact your vet to book a consultation with a “travel preparation vet” so that they can support you through this process.

Authored by Dr Karin Wilson

Edited by Delilah Nosworthy

If you would like to read more of Delilah’s edited and/or authored articles click here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *