Two puppies laying in the grass

Moving with Pets: A Go-To Guide

Like many of you, our pets have full-fledged, card-carrying membership in our family. We call them our kids and consider ourselves a family of four. Heck, we even sign our holiday cards with our pets’ names! So naturally, whenever we get PCS orders we are sure to include them in our moving plans.  When I found out we were moving overseas, my first thought was about our dog, Regis (yes, he is loosely named after the celebrity). I thought, “Should we charter a boat so he doesn’t have to fly?” My husband quickly brought me back to reality, and I started making serious, concrete plans to have a successful outside the continental United States move with our furbabies. Whether you are moving to the next state or across an ocean, here are some tips from my experience.

WHEN: As soon as you have orders


  • Gather your pet’s medical information from your veterinarian.
  • Start researching pet friendly hotels to use while in transit. A simple Internet search should yield plenty of results. Plus, you may find a national chain to assist you along your entire route.
  • If you have a restricted breed pet, check with the housing office at your new installation to see if your pet is exempt.


  • Research quarantine requirements for your OCONUS location. Some locations require a series of vaccinations and a FAVN test, which is a blood serum rabies test.
  • Microchip your pet with the universal 15 digit microchip, unless your new location requires a different chip. Check with your veterinarian about any special requirements for your new installation.
  • Gather your pet’s medical information from your veterinarian and purchase an expandable file folder to hold all of your pet’s information.

WHEN: One – three months out


  • If you know your travel dates, book your pet friendly hotel rooms.
  • Start checking out pet friendly housing in your new location so you have an idea of what to expect.


  • Make pet arrangements at your new installation with a pet friendly hotel room, a kennel or a pet sitter. The earlier you make your reservations, the better.
  • Check with your incoming country to see if there is any advance notification required for your pet to enter the country.
  • Confirm your pet’s reservation with each airline. Write down the name of the person you spoke with, the date and time of the phone call in case there is a problem.
  • Check out airline travel requirements for your pet’s kennel. Airlines require specific kennels depending on a pet’s size and whether your pet will be traveling below the plane or in the cabin.

WHEN: One – two weeks out


  • If you think you are going to live off your installation, make appropriate appointments with property managers or realtors to find a pet friendly home.


  • RECONFIRM with your airlines, hotels and kennels that your pet’s reservation is still intact. If there is a problem, this is where that information you wrote down earlier comes in handy.
  • Have your pet seen by a veterinarian for a health certificate before flying. Most are only good for 10 days, so try to do this as close as possible to your travel date. While there, have them scan your pet’s microchip to make sure it is still intact.
  • Make copies of all pet paperwork!
  • Do a last minute check of airline kennel supplies. Most airlines require a blanket or puppy pad in the bottom of the kennel, as well as a food and water source fastened to the cage.
  • If you have a nervous pet, consider purchasing what I equate to a puppy swaddle vest for the flight. They are designed to fit snuggly and help your pet feel safe in scary conditions. Try it on a few days beforehand to make sure it fits well!


  • If your pet is on any preventative medication or has any ongoing treatments, ensure you have enough to last until you are fully settled into your duty station.
  • If your pet doesn’t like to travel, check with your veterinarian for suggestions. I was convinced that Regis would need an IV of “sleepy meds” to get him through the long flights, but our veterinarian highly discouraged it, and Regis braved the flights like a champ!
  • Have your pet’s travel kennel out so your pet can check it out before traveling.
  • Pick up your pet’s veterinarian records.

WHEN: 1 – 2 days out


  • In your carryon bag, pack a small baggie of food, treats, waste bags, daily medications and an extra puppy pad for each stop you make. You may also wish to consider packing pet wipes in case your pet uses the bathroom in the kennel.


  • Pack your pet’s travel bag! Include food, treats, toys, a pet bed and other items that your pet will need as you travel and before your household goods shipment arrives. If you have a cat, consider purchasing disposable litter boxes. It’s a lot easier than toting around an actual litter box and a container of litter!

WHEN: Travel time!


  • Make sure your pet is comfortable and safe inside your vehicle. It is best not to let your pet roam in your car while driving; it can be dangerous for all of you.
  • Make frequent stops so your pet can stretch, use the bathroom and have some food and water.
  • Do not EVER leave your pet unattended in the car.


  • Don’t forget your file folder of your pet’s paperwork!
  • Place a t-shirt or similar item of yours in your pet’s kennel to make your pet feel safe.
  • Do a last minute check of your pet’s supplies and fill up the kennel’s food and water bowls. (Tip: Place ice cubes in the water portion so that the water isn’t sloshing around during loading, but melts afterwards to provide drinking water.)
  • Carry your pet’s leash with YOU after your pet is in the kennel!
  • Arrive at the airport early so you have time to fix any problems.
  • Take your pet outside one last time before your flight and give your pet a final hug and kiss. (Yes, I was the dramatic mom that cried the whole trip.)
  • Make sure your airline gives you confirmation that your pet is on board before takeoff.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am one of those neurotic pet parents that people probably make cartoons about. I am happy to report that both of our furbabies can now add a successful OCONUS move to their resume! Flying barely phased them. In fact, Regis was wagging his tail when we collected him. With the proper planning, moving with pets can be a breeze!

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  • Stephanie Smith says:

    Do you have a similar plan for when moving back to the states with a pet that was adopted while overseas??

  • Hillary says:

    Any suggestions on a big “family” 5 humans and 4 furries?

  • Hillary says:

    We will be traveling by car from Chicago to San Diego.

  • ana maria rochabrun says:

    I´m moving to USA from Peru. Can you bring me information about the requeriments I need to move with my dog Shitzu.

  • Lindsey Rankin says:

    Do you have any advice or know someone who would have advice for traveling with an exotic pet? (Sugar Glider to be specific.)

  • Jenn - USO New England says:

    Hello Melissa! Fabulous suggestions all around. May I suggest a few additional items?

    1) Bach’s “Rescue Remedy” is homeopathic & now made for pets & children (basically no alcohol base). My vets are homeopaths and agree with your vet. I have given it to my pets on stessful occasions. Start about 3 or 4 before the event or PCS.

    2) Call ahead, or check ahead, if there is a USO at your airport(s), especially if there is a long layover. We LOVE pets. I have had cats in. I had a USCG couple come in to check about accomodations etc before they moved, Cayman, their parrot, to Alaska. 🙂

    3) if you need a temporary place for your pet check with Dogs on Deployment!

  • Patrick says:

    If you have a small enough dog, such as ours was under 15 pounds coming from CONUS to OCONUS, you can ride with them in the cabin. It takes a lot of the pressure off, Molly was a sleepy little angel the whole flight.

  • Hi Stephanie!
    From what I have heard others say, it is pretty easy to move domestic animals back to the states. Definitely check with your base vet to see what the requirements are. Unless you are moving to Hawaii, there shouldn’t be a quarantine process!

    Hillary- Patience! LOL! 🙂 And sounds like it will require 2 cars for sure to make sure all the humans and furbabies are happy! Hopefully your kids are old enough to help at rest stops and the like. Make sure to book those pet friendly hotels early! There are some great websites out there that can list them by city. Or you can usually find a national hotel chain that is pet friendly and try to only book through them.

    Ana Marie- I am not familiar with the requirements coming from Peru. I would check the USDA website for information on bringing pets from Peru! Good luck getting your furbaby to the states!

    Lindsey- Sugar gliders are unique depending on the country where you are going. Some countries don’t allow them. Or like here in Japan, they aren’t allowed in military family housing. Check with the base vet for the country you are moving to as well as the airlines. They may have a different set of rules for sugar gliders. I hope it works out well for you!

    Jenn- Great suggestions! Thanks for the tips! 🙂