Traveling With Pets During COVID-19 Presents Challenges

No significant evidence animals facilitate spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
dog looking over a deep canyon

Military community members who permanently change their duty station and want to take their pet to the new home should plan ahead, said a new article published by the US Army.

“During COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase in flight changes and cancellations, and that’s had an effect on pets traveling as well,” stated Captain Kathleen Stewart, Wiesbaden Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) officer in charge, on October 5, 2020. 

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases where the owner was rebooked, but there was no space for the pet on the same flight. Because of these instances, we recommend owners always have a backup plan such as a friend who can watch the pet if it’s not allowed to travel for any reason.”

Apart from the logistics point of view, countries have import requirements for animals that have to be met. Most countries require a valid microchip and a current rabies vaccination for cats and dogs, Stewart said. 

They also need a physical exam and a health certificate signed by a veterinarian within 10-days of departure. Some countries require additional vaccines or blood tests.

Community members with any other animal should reach out to the VTF for further guidance, Stewart said.

Being on a plane is stressful for cats and dogs, she said. Stewart recommended starting to get the pet accustomed to the kennel a couple of months beforehand.

“The VTF can provide recommendations and handouts with directions to help make the kennel a safe place for pets,” she said. “We want the pet to be comfortable in the kennel.”

Every airline has different requirements for kennel sizes, and whether pets can travel in the cabin or in cargo. There might even be breed restrictions, she said. Community members should reach out directly to the airline to learn what requirements they have to meet.

“Depending on where in the plane the pet will be traveling, airlines may not allow pets to travel with sedation medication,” Stewart said. “So if people are concerned about the stress levels of their pet, they should consult with the VTF and the airline.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that pets travel in temperatures between 45 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit at departure and arrival airports. If the temperature is above or below this range, the airlines have the right to refuse to transport the pet, Stewart said. 

It is a good idea to have a backup plan not only during COVID-19 times but always when traveling with pets, concluded this article.

On August 24, 2020, the U.S. CDC issued a website statement saying ‘At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.’

However, cats were found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 but they cannot transmit the new coronavirus to humans, reported a recent study from Spain.

During May 2020, the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology reported the first cat in Spain was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This 4-year-old cat lived with a family affected by COVID-19.

Given the number of people infected with COVID-19 and the few reported cases of animals, experts continue to note that ‘pets play a negligible role in the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 and, in particular, cats become very residually infected and there is no evidence of transmission of the virus to humans.’

Vax-Before-Travel publishes research-based travel vaccine news.