Getting ready for a permanent change-of-station move? Does your pet meet the requirements for your destination?

Moving with family pets is often an overwhelming and stressful event for both owners and their pets. Many international countries, and even some states, have very specific importation requirements for family pets. Early planning and preparation is the key to ensuring your pets meet the requirements and make for a smooth travel experience.

Plan
-- Visit the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Pet Travel Website: Your destination country/state may have specific health requirements that must be met prior to your pet being allowed to enter. This website provides up-to-date information on these requirements. Pay close attention to the timeline when looking up what the importation requirements are as some countries/states require special testing to be performed as early as six months prior to your pet's arrival date.

-- Schedule an appointment with your pet's veterinarian. They can assist you in ensuring that your pet has all the appropriate vaccinations, testing, medications and paperwork. The earlier you contact your veterinarian the better.

-- When flying, pay close attention to the pet policy for the airline you will be flying. Airlines often have specific requirements for the pets they are transporting, and they may vary depending on if you are accompanying your pet on the flight or not.

-- Be your pet's advocate. Ultimately it is your responsibility, as the owner, to ensure that your pet has met the importation guidelines and is accompanied by the appropriate paperwork to be accepted at its destination.

Prepare
-- Keep your pets up to date on all their vaccinations and preventive care. Maintain copies of all of your pet's medical records and store them in a safe place. Many countries/states require original copies of your pet's rabies certificates and proof of microchip implantation. Every time your pet is vaccinated for rabies, ensure you receive at least two copies of these certificates with your veterinarian's original signature in blue ink.

-- Accustom your pet to the crate that it will be traveling in. Crates should be large enough to allow the pet to be able to stand up, sit erect and turn around comfortably. Ensure the crate meets the appropriate specifications for the airline.

-- Ensure your pet has appropriate identification. Whenever your pet travels, they should wear a collar with an identification tag that has their name and up to date owner contact information.

-- If your pet is microchipped, carry their number with you and confirm that you have current contact information on file with the company your pet is registered with. Many pets are lost due to the owner not updating their contact information for their pet's microchip number.

-- If your pet is an anxious traveler or gets car sick, then discuss medication options with their veterinarian. There are several safe and effective medications that can be prescribed for your pet to alleviate their anxiety or motion sickness.

Here at the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility, we specialize in prepping your family pets for their destination and have the capability to issue international and domestic health certificates. We will be hosting our inaugural Prepping your Pet for your PCS event on March 7. This event is designed to answer all of your questions regarding importation requirements for your pet's destination and help you evaluate what your pet needs to make obtaining a health certificate a smooth process. To attend, call the clinic at 573.596.0094 to reserve your spot.

(Editor's note: Abell is the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Branch chief.)