Flying Jeopardy

Our dog Jeop has been with our family since JG and I got married back in 2008, and just like this blog, he is as old as our marriage. While he has been our sole family dog since the husband’s Yugo passed away some five years ago, Jeop and I have had a special bond from the day he chewed my favorite pair of shoes to bits as a puppy.

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Jeopardy at around three years old.

If you have been following my move some months back, I was lamenting leaving him behind. So now that he is finally here with us at post, I thought I’d share my experience and what I learned about transporting our pet from The Philippines to European Hungary. This is especially for those of you who are considering doing the same with your own.

Making the decision

First, consider if where you are taking your pet is a place where he or she is culturally welcomed or healthy for his well-being.

The decision to bring Jeop with us has always been an option but something we played by ear. In Tripoli and in Muscat, dogs weren’t as common as pets as cats were, we were told that some Muslims consider dogs to be unclean. But on a more practical reason, the weather conditions there, especially during the summer season wasn’t something we thought that could be healthy for our dog.

In case you are wondering, in the Philippines, I think it has only been recently when the care for dogs not just as guard (a common name we use for dogs is Bantay, which literally translates to Guard) outside our homes, has changed. Growing up I hardly remember dogs having special breeds, I do remember one house that had a German Shepherd, but he too was to stay within the gates, a vicious warning to unwelcome intruders. These days, all breeds and sizes are seen, even in public places like in malls and parks. So in case you are thinking about bringing your dog to the Philippines, I’d say it’s fairly okay, there are many excellent vets there now, and since the ideals towards them are now changing, supplies and doggy needs are available almost everywhere.

Not really sure about those who owns Huskies though, summers in Manila can get really hot and humid, but surprisingly I have seen several who take on these well-known winter dogs to a tropical city.

Another thing I’d like to say about making this decision, is that it is true, that especially if you are flying your pet somewhere far, this can be daunting to them physically and psychologically. Dogs are affected by change and they show this in one form or another. Moving homes, or a change in their routine, can cause some effects on them, and so we considered this and such thoughts really made it quite difficult. Not to mention the fact that stories on the internet about dogs dying on flight was everywhere, and these were also not helpful inputs.

A good friend made a thoughtful point, as I told them about our plans for Jeop. A dog lover himself, he said out that if it were him, he would rather make the heart-breaking decision to leave his dog behind, find him a new loving home, rather than put him through a very stressful situation such as transporting him via a long trip. He says that sometimes, however well we mean, and despite understanding how our dogs can be seen as family members we can’t live without, there is a selfishness in the idea of putting them through, what is to our dogs, a  potentially life threatening endeavor; just so we can keep them with us.

So second point, make sure you are doing this for the good of your dog, and not just so you don’t want to be guilty, or think lightly of the situation. I can only confidently say this now, as thankfully Jeop is so far adjusting okay after the trip. But while it is true that thousands of dogs have and are being flown these days, the process takes time, there are preparations involved, and again can affect the well-being of your dog.

In our case, we really couldn’t think of anyone who could care for Jeop for us. During the six years we were in Muslim countries, Jeop was cared for by JG’s Mom who unfortunately passed away last year. In the three months that we went ahead to Budapest, we left him with my Mom, but she is already taking care of a toddler (a little cousin) and my elderly grandma. And while she too loves Jeop, it was too much of me to ask her to take on another, when I am far away, and have all the care I can give. And so it was final, Jeop was going with us.

Some things to consider

One of the things that I learned was that not all dogs can fly in a plane, there are several types of breeds that Airlines do not accept. This is due to the make of some of their noses, particularly the snubbed ones, because apparently they are unable to adjust to the changes in cabin pressure while the plane is thousands of feet up in the air.  Age is also important, as with humans, the younger they are, the better their chances as well. Jeop is eight years old, which was one of the things I worried about, in dog years that’s a bit old. But when it comes to dogs, their age, and their health is connected to their weight and size. In my dog’s case he is about 12 kg, which puts him in his senior years. When I learned this, I took it as a sign and thought that it would be now or never.

 

 

age_chart_dogs_v3.2
Rehm M. Seeing double.Veterinary Economics. 2007;48(10):40-48.
Chart courtesy of Fred L. Metzger, DVM, DABVP. The above ages are intended as general guidelines only. Be sure to ask your veterinarian at what age she or he would consider your pet a senior or geriatric.

The Process

After you have decided that you really want and need to bring your pet along, this is where the professionals come in. Jeop’s vet included export services that has many experience in helping dogs travel. Most importantly handling the paper works that are required for your dog to enter another country. Your part is to prepare your dog.

What takes most of the time is the Titer test that checks if your dog is rabies free. If your dog is up to date with his vaccines, then this slashes a lot of time in the process. When it came to Jeop, since he was under the care of my Mother in Law for some time, we couldn’t find any proof of his most recent vaccine. So we had to start from scratch.

We had to wait at least five months in this part of the process. To be sure that Jeop passes the blood test, we were advised to have two consecutive rabies shots. But these had to be taken a month in between before the extraction be done. That means after the first rabies shot, we waited a month for the next one, and then another month for the extraction.

His blood sample was then sent to an approved lab (unfortunately, there is none in the Philippines, so they had to send it to a lab in the US) and this took another month.

I think it is EU regulation that after the dog passes the Titter test, he/she can only travel, the earliest three months after the blood extraction. The only thing left after this is to buy your plane ticket, and the pre-departure check-up that will take place at least ten days before you leave with your dog. I will get back to this later.

Another important requirement in entering an EU state is a microchip that needs to be embedded in your dog so that it can be tracked and I suppose easily registered into their system (or whatever list they have of pets coming in their country). I was worried about this because, I thought it would literally look like a small chip and would require an incision. But to my relief, the chip is the size of a grain of rice and can be injected into the dog. There were some bleeding after Jeop got the shot, but after a few minutes he was okay again, and is now ready for any scans.

Preparing your dog

While you are waiting, you can use this time to help your dog get through this as easy as possible. Because we went ahead to Budapest, this was something I wasn’t able to do, and advise you to learn from me and use this time wisely.

If you don’t have one yet, you need a travel approved kennel or cage. For this you need a cage big enough for your dog to stand and at least be able take a turn or a little room to move around.

measure_crateLG_diagram

Some airlines allow dogs inside the cabin with you, but they need to weigh less than 7 kg including the weight of the kennel.  As I mentioned Jeop is about 12kg therefore he is required to stay in cargo.

But not to worry, airlines who are used to flying pets will put them in an area in the plane where there is still breathable air, and good air pressure.

My flight from Manila to Budapest took at least 16 hours, including a quick stop in Taiwan, the lay-over, and the flight from Netherlands to Hungary. So considering all this, if like Jeop you have a big dog, he will be staying in his kennel in the cargo, so it is important that he is comfortable and used to staying there.

My problem was that I did not have enough time to do this. And everytime I tried putting Jeop in, he would be okay for a few minutes but eventually would want to get free. I tried to be strong and not let him out, but he would try to escape, even try to topple the cage open.

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This was taken the first day we put him in the kennel. five minutes before he expressed how much he wanted out.

If your pet is like Jeop who is not used to being in closed confines, your job over the next few months is to train them to be okay with this. You can help them by putting them in the kennel a few hours at a time. The more time you can do this, the better prepared they can be.

This is also the time to ensure that your dog stays healthy before the trip, making sure to feed them right, and of course the hygienic factors involved. For example the tick problems, skin concerns, vitamins or missed vaccinations, or whatever you think you and your pet need to address.

During the pre-departure check-up with his vet, remember to bring his proof of vaccines, and the Titer test result, if given to you in advance. As I mentioned earlier, this check-up must be done at least 10 days before your flight.

If needed, like with Jeop, his vet gave him de-worming tablets, and we were instructed to have him take it two days before we leave.

After his vet deemed Jeop healthy to travel, all that was left was to wait for the paper works to be processed. This took about a day, and as I mentioned earlier, its validity lasts up to ten days. This is why, it is advised the pre-departure check-up is done at least ten days before the flight schedule. However, we were also advised that we move this a bit closer before we leave, so instead of ten, had it six days before. This way, in case there were problems like flight cancellations and reschedules, Jeop’s papers were still valid for a few more days.

Flying with your dog

At some point during the wait, you would have had bought your plane ticket. We decided to go with KLM because aside from Turkish Airlines, these are the two fleets that are said to be the best choice in flying your pets.

You may inform them that you are bringing your pet along at least 48 hours before your flight, but I suggest you do this when you purchase them. When you inform them, they will ask you for your kennel’s dimensions, so be sure to measure it. Informing your airline of choice before-hand and giving them the size of the kennel is done so that they may reserve the necessary space for your dog in the cargo hold of the plane.

One of the most common question that is asked about flying with your pet, is whether they will be charged as excess baggage (meaning will the weight of you dog determine the cost), or if you can include them as part of your luggage weight allowance as a passenger. The answer is both no. For KLM, regardless of how big or small your pet and its cage is, there is a fixed price which is 200USD. This is paid, before you board your flight after they check the required papers at the counter.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the KLM desk the day of our flight. They were all so nice and helpful. I was worried that they would be alarmed about a dog, especially as they were checking the papers, Jeop started to get impatient in his kennel and wanted out. The staff, even at the Schipol airport were patient and helpful, whenever I asked about how Jeop was doing during the transfers.

They also advise that you put absorbent mats or newspapers, in the kennel. You may also put with your pet his favorite chew toy. I wore the same shirt to bed my last week and put that in with Jeop, so that he can have a familiar scent with him to help him relax. KLM also let me put a water system inside the kennel, but they say that some airlines do not allow this, to avoid spillage.

Feed you dog, at least two hours before you leave, and best that you have them pee and poop before you proceed to the counter.  The dogs will not be given any food or assistance during the duration of the flight. But as his vet explained, dogs can last two days without food, and 24 hours without water, so just be sure to have some snacks and water at the ready when you reach your destination and is reunited with your pet.

Another popular question is that will they be sedated? And the answer is no, because earlier cases prove that the dogs get confused and disoriented when they suddenly wake up after the flight or when the drugs wear off which causes them to get aggressive, and some cases snap at and bite their owners and airport handlers.

Pets are also not put through the conveyor belt like our baggage after we check-in for the flight. Someone will take him to the plane, when it is ready to be boarded. However since we took him to an EU state, a copy of his papers was attached to his kennel, and was checked at the point of entry in Europe in the Netherlands, and so when we arrived in Hungary I just had to wait for him to be released, to which he came with my luggage via the carousel.

Just a tip, bring an extra 200USD or its equivalent in whatever currency. My lay-over in Amsterdam was only about an hour and 45 minutes. But if yours is over two hours, you will be asked to pay so that they can put your dog in a day care or pet center, where he will be provided with food and drinks, I think be given a walk as well. This may also be just to be prepared again should there be any unforeseen flight reschedules and delays.

As for me, I was uneasy throughout the whole flight. I felt guilty everytime we were given our meals and when I needed to go to the toilet. I kept thinking about how Jeop couldn’t do neither, or how he must be cold, and confused, and scared during any turbulence. The first thing I did when we got off at Amsterdam, was ask the flight attendants if they could ask someone to check on my dog. Even after they told me he was okay, while waiting for my transfer, I kept my eyes outside our luggage being boarded, and sure enough saw a glimpse of Jeop’s kennel (at which point wished that I had binoculars handy so I can get a closer look).

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I took this while I waited for my flight to board at Schipol. The blue cart covered in blue tarp is where Jeop’s kennel is.

It was such a relief after I saw him when I arrived at Hungary, I have never been happier for a flight to be over. Immediately after we met JG and got outside, we took him for a walk, gave him some water, and bit of snack to eat before heading home.

How is Jeop adjusting after his flight?

I think he was able to make use of the water system I installed in his cage, and did pee in his kennel, so the absorbent mats became useful. But he did hold his poop for the whole flight which was the longest that he wasn’t able to go. This is was probably why, he had some diarrhea during his first few days, since he did not have anything but water, and tried to keep it in for almost a day.

So far he is now doing okay, he has regained his monstrous appetite and seemed to approve the front lawn. Our home is only a ten minute walk to JG’s office at the embassy, so Jeop and I walk with him every morning when the weather permits. He likes sitting beside me when I take him to the nearby park, I would read there for an hour or so, and he would watch the kids and locals doing their outdoor activities.

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Lastly, I would just like to add that requirements for travelling with pets vary. So a tip would be to inquire with the embassy you plan to bring your dog (or cat) to and ask them the necessary information.

So there, I know this is a bit of a lengthy post, even lengthier than my usual ramblings, but I really hope that is helpful information. Below are links that I found useful during our quest for answers, including the KLM guidelines.

http://www.livinginhungary.info/how-to-bring-a-dog-cat-pet-animal-into-hungary.html

https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/pet-movement_en

https://www.klm.com/travel/gb_en/prepare_for_travel/travel_planning/pets/index.htm

 

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