Today’s blog post is all about how to move overseas with your raw-fed dog! I cover my pup Wally’s flight requirements, his food situation while in transit, as well as my quest of finding raw dog food for him in Germany.
I have to preface this by saying that the move went surprisingly smooth and Wally did SO well in his travel box. My biggest stressor was definitely the flight with Wally since he had to travel in the belly of the plane. Unfortunately, his normal pet status and his weight of 38 lbs disqualify him from traveling in the cabin. Things would be different if he was my service dog or emotional support dog, or if he was small enough for a dog carrier that fit under the front seat.
How To Move Overseas With Your Raw-Fed Dog
So yep, after over a decade of life in my second home of choice, the US, I decided to check something off that was a bit intimidating. My move back to my original home, Germany, with my partner and Wally, my raw-fed Feist mix. I adopted him in early 2019 and have been feeding him raw dog food ever since.
The Flight – Airline Requirements For Dogs
OK, let’s hop right into the topic at hand!
First of all, make sure to check your airline’s requirements for dogs on the plane as soon as possible.
We made the flight over the big pond from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt with Lufthansa, a German airline. They were the only ones who transport dogs cargo during the COVID Pandemic in our neck of the woods.
You can read their particular flight container specs for the cargo area here, and I mention the most important ones below:
- Maximum size is 125 × 75 × 85 cm
- Dog must be able to stand, turn around & lie down comfortably
- Must be escape proof: sturdy plastic or wooden crates are recommended
- Must have ventilation holes in all 4 sides
- Ventilation holes must be small enough to prevent the dog to squeeze her body through
- The inside of the container can’t have any sharp edges, corners, or protruding nails
- Must have a water-proof floor and be lined with absorbent material like a crate pad or blanket (newspaper, card board or straw are not permitted)
- Empty (food and) water bowl must be attached to the cage and fillable from the outside. Food & water for the flight can be optionally provided
- Castors/wheels are not permitted on the container
- Collar & leash can’t be in or on the container – needs to be carried by owner in carry-on baggage
Here’s what Wally’s flight box looked like:
Flight Crate Training: Start As Early As Possible
I started Wally’s medium size flight crate training in mid-December, which was 3 months before our flight. I’m so glad I did that well in advance and highly recommend you do the same if at all possible, especially if your pup is NOT crate trained.
Wally IS crate trained, but his home crate is a foldable, large wire crate. It’s actually a bit too large for him because it’s a pass-me-down from my late pup Missy. She was a 50 lb Boxer mix, meaning she outweighed him by about 12 lbs and she was also taller than him. Nevertheless, Wally really enjoyed his extra crate space at home, so I didn’t bother getting him a smaller one.
So in mid-December, I put up his large wire crate and set up his medium flight carrier instead. I put his regular crate pad in there and just left the door wide open so that he could walk in there at his leisure. He took to it fairly quickly and didn’t seem bothered by the smaller size at all.
He usually sleeps on a couch at night, but 10 days before our flight, I decided to have him sleep in his flight carrier. I did that because I wanted him to experience being in there for 9-11 hours at a time BEFORE he’d actually be stuck in there during the flight.
Again, he didn’t seem to mind at all and spent his nights sound asleep. That was a relief for me!
0 Layover Flight: Make It As Short As Possible
Here’s another tip I have for you: Try to hop on a o layover flight if at all possible. It makes things much less stressful for your pup than if you’d have a layover somewhere.
Like I mentioned earlier, we flew from D.C. to Frankfurt, which is about a 9 hour flight. Since we used to live in NC, we rented a car there and made the 6 hour drive up to D.C. with Wally. He likes car rides, so that part was a no brainer. Frankfurt wasn’t our final destination in Germany either, so once we landed in Frankfurt, we rented another car and made the last leg of our journey that way.
Also, our flight was a night flight which must have helped because it sorta kept Wally on his schedule. Granted, he usually doesn’t go to sleep until 9 pm-ish, but it was still close enough. I also gave him a Trazadone 1 hour before we arrived at the airport, and that made him pretty sleepy by the time we got there. He didn’t even complain when someone from the Lufthansa staff rolled him away from us in his carrier.
Good to know: Dulles Airport has a doggie potty area right outside the check-in area, which is super convenient. I let him go potty there one more time before he willingly walked into his flight carrier.
Germany’s Import Regulations For Dogs: Breed Restrictions, International Health Certificate, Rabies Vaccine & Microchip
This is also super important to know: Germany does have certain breed restrictions.
Heads up: American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Bull Terriers as well as mixes thereof ARE on that list, so you can’t import these breeds. I personally don’t believe in breed specific legislation, but it is what it is.
Besides the flight carrier, I had to make sure that Wally checked a few medical requirements. This differs from country to country, so make sure to check your destination country’s requirements! You’ll typically find this on an official government website.
- an international health certificate
- up-to-date rabies vaccination as well as
- an international microchip.
International Health Certificate
The International Health Certificate consists of a few pieces of paper that state that your pup is in overall good general health. So essentially, your pup gets a physical exam from a vet and that’s it.
However, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT! The vet who examines your pup needs to be USDA-accredited (US Department of Agriculture). My regular vet didn’t have that accreditation, so I had to find one who did. That part was easy enough though. All I did was a Google search for USDA-accredited vets near me, and sure enough, I found one within just 10 miles from me.
You’ll need to show this health certificate when checking in at the airport, and then again at customs in Germany. The customs staff in Germany were super nice. They essentially just looked at his signed and stamped health certificate and read his microchip. They used a scanner to make sure it matched the number printed on the health certificate.
By the way, Wally was already waiting for us at the baggage claim in Frankfurt when we got there, along with one other fellow traveling pup. I couldn’t see him at first BUT heard his appalled bark loud and clearly, ha – so I just followed the sound of his voice. He wasn’t scared or whining or anything like that at all – it sounded more like he was saying “Ok humans, time to get me out of here!”
Up-To-Date Rabies Vaccination
Obviously, your pup will need to be current on their rabies vaccination.
However, the vet’s signature on your pup’s rabies vaccination certificate needs to be BLUE ink, not black. That is super important – they really do insist on that, so be aware.
Wally’s rabies vaccination was still good for another year, so he was good there.
Conveniently enough, Wally already had an international microchip. That’s a 15 digit chip that complies with the ISO (International Standards Organization) and operates at a specific frequency. In the US, there are currently 3 different frequencies that are used, so make sure to double check that your pup is getting/has the correct one!
Here’s another technicality: The chip needs to be implanted before the rabies vaccination is administered. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue in the US, chances are high that these boxes will be checked. That’s because shelters and rescues place a huge emphasis on microchipping and vaccinating, and this is usually the order in which it’s done. As a former rescue, Wally was no exception to this, which worked out nicely for our travel plans!
If your pup is not a rescue pup and doesn’t have the internationally readable microchip, you’ll have to get that one for him. Additionally, you’ll also have to get him (another) rabies vaccine AFTER he got the international microchip.
How To Move Overseas With Your Raw-Fed Dog: Raw Dog Food
As I mentioned earlier, Wally’s been raw-fed since early 2019. I feed him about 70% of my own homemade raw dog food and 30% of pre-made raw.
That said, I did one last meal prep for him 3 weeks before our flight. I needed exactly 42 meals, and that’s how much I prepped. Since I still had some leftover cuts of meat like duck feet, duck heads, pork heart and a few other parts, I passed them along to a friend & former dog walking client who had recently switched her Rottweiler pup over to raw dog food.
Bartering Leftover Raw Dog Food In The US/Canada
I had first listed my leftover cuts for sale in a bartering raw dog food Facebook group for the US and Canada but didn’t have any luck there. I figured it was worth a shot though and recommend you check it out! There are a few great offers in there – it obviously just depends on where the offer and you are located, lol.
The group is called Raw Bartering US and Canada and currently has about 3,000 members.
Bring Some Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food For The Trip
In my opinion, the best alternative for fresh raw dog food is freeze-dried or air-dried raw dog food from brands like Vital Essentials, Sojos, Grandma Lucy’s or Ziwipeak. I brought a small bag of Vital Essentials rabbit freeze-dried raw dog food along.
Once in Germany, I asked my family to please grab some raw ground beef for Wally’s first few days. Although that’s obviously not balanced raw dog food, it’s perfectly fine to feed for a few days. I only needed it until my first order of frozen raw dog food came in.
Raw Dog Food Brands in Germany
So far, I’ve heard about 3 brands and have actively tried two.
I placed the order I just mentioned from a brand called Barfers-Wellfood. They have a ton of different food options that range from pre-made ground completes to individual cuts of raw meat. They’re located in Berlin, Germany and ship within all of Europe! Shipping is free for orders over 20kg of food.
I went ahead and ordered 20kg (about 44lbs) worth of pre-made ground rabbit since I don’t have a chest freezer to store individual cuts of meat quite yet. Can’t wait to place an order of individual cuts of meat with them though! I’ll report back as soon as I’ll have it.
From what I can tell so far, the brand compares to one of my favorite US-based raw dog food retailers, Raw Feeding Miami, and Wally LOVES their rabbit meat.
Another brand I came across is called PETMAN Barf. It’s sold in pet retail stores, which is obviously super convenient because I can quickly grab it there when I’m low on something. Bonus points for no shipping costs either!
So far, we’ve picked up some of their duck, beef green tripe and beef & green tripe mix. It’s important to point out that they’re not completes, meaning they can’t be fed as a complete meal. At least not on a regular basis.
From what it says on their packaging, this raw food is meant to be mixed with fruit, veggies, specific supplements from the same brand and oils. Sort of what you would find in a Dr. Harvey’s dehydrated base mix in the US!
The third brand one of my German friends mentioned is Haustierkost.de. Their selection looks really good too and I’ll be sure to place an order with them here soon.
How To Move Overseas With Your Raw-Fed Dog: Bottom Line
I’m glad that the moving stress is mostly over, but all things considered, it was very doable.
If you’re getting ready to move overseas with your (raw-fed) pup, I recommend you start planning as early as possible. Make sure you’re familiar with your destination country’s regulations for importing dogs. Also, get that rabies certificate signed in BLUE ink and start your pup’s flight crate training asap.
Once you’re in Germany, it’s very easy to get your hands on raw dog food – both online as well as in brick-and-mortar stores!