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Traveling to Italy with a Dog from the USA: The Ultimate Guide

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Have you been wondering about flying a dog to Italy in the EU from the USA?

Bringing a Dog from the United States to countries in the European Union (EU) is less difficult than you might think. However, there are a lot of logistics to figure out from the paperwork to navigating the flight.

We just flew with our two terriers from California to Italy through France. One flew in the cabin. Our larger dog flew through excess baggage.

I created this guide to help you navigate the process to get yourself and your faithful companions across the pond to this enchanting and historic country. If you are considering flying with your pet to a different country in the EU, this guide will still be helpful as about 95% of the process will be very similar.

Two terriers sitting on a wall with the Golden Gate Bridge Behind Them

Sam and Denver

Sam is a 15-year-old Border Terrier who weighs 23 pounds. He flew in excess baggage.

Denver is a 5-year-old Norwich Terrier who weighs 15lbs and has stubby legs. He’s ther perfect size for flying in the airline cabin

Both dogs are regular pet travelers

Can I fly my dog to Italy with me?

Yes, you absolutely can fly your dog and cat to Italy with you!

If you are bringing a pet to Italy from the USA, you need to comply with certain requirements including

  • proof of rabies vaccine connected to your pet’s microchip
  • a health certificate from your vet and endorsed by the USDA

How to Travel with My Dog to Italy

Dogs and cats can both fly to Italy from the United States. Depending on the size, the pet may fly in the cabin or under the plane.

If you have traveled to Italy or anywhere else, share your story to help fellow pet travelers and stamp your Paws Passport.

Traveling between US and Italy with a dog IN CABIN

Pet carrier under the airplane seat

Since Denver is only 15lb/6.8kg and has stubby little legs, he’s an ideal size to travel with me in the cabin.

We flew on Air France in Premium Economy.
Our route was
San Francisco to Paris (10 hours)
Lay-over in Paris where we went through EU immigration and customs (4 hour)
Paris to Rome (1 1/2 hours)

I chose this airline because they are one of the few airlines that allow pets to fly in Premium Economy and it is easy to transfer my UR Chase Sapphire Credit Card points to Flying Blue.

Earn 60,000 bonus points with either Chase Sapphire card. I can be rewarded if you apply here and are approved for the card.

Metal bar in the middle of footwell in premium cabin doesn't allow pet carrier to fit under the seat

Was Premium Economy Worth it?

The cost is more reasonable if you can find a good point value which I did. I reserved an aisle seat for Denver and that was great. However, the second seat had a metal bar right in the middle of the seat preventing the carrier from fitting underneath. That seat would have been less comfortable than economy, so check the seat options!

Cost for flying with a pet on Air France and KLM in-cabin

The fee is $200 each way on a Trans-Atlantic route at the time of our flight.

Air France and KLM pet carrier requirements

The max dimensions for your pet’s travel bag are usually noted on your airline’s website.  For Air France and KLM, it is 18″x11″x9″.  It is difficult to find a carrier with the 9″ height requirement. However, that is the dimension airlines are the most flexible with since the top can squish down.

We debated between the Sherpa® Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier and Mr. Peanut -Tahoe Expandable Backpack. Both are excellent choices. We went with the backpack because we need to travel light and the backpack will be more useful on trains, ferries and walking around town.

Norwich terrier inside the Sherpa airline carrier

Sherpa® Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier

This carrier meets the requirements for most airlines.

It’s affordable and a popular option

Norwich terrier inside the MR. Peanuts pet backpack

Mr. Peanut -Tahoe Expandable Backpack

This carrier is a backpack rather than a tote bag. It is expandable.

It’s slightly wider than the airline requirement, but can squish to fit the requirement.

Traveling between US and Italy with a dog IN Excess-Baggage

Medium dog can't fit inside airline approved carrier

Why did my small dog fly in excess-baggage to Italy?

The limits for flying in-cabin on Flying Blue Airlines, Air France and KLM is 8kg (17.5 lbs) and the carrier size is 18″ L x 11″ W x 9″ H. That means that any pets over this size and who can’t comfortably stand up and turn around in a carrier need to fly in the hold of the plane.

Most people would consider our border terrier, Sam, a small dog. However, he is too heavy (23lbs) and with his long legs, would never fit into the airline approved bag. Check out the best breeds for flying.

I did extensive research on bags that fit “larger” small dogs and found some great options. Many people take the risk with dogs Sam size and they are able to get on the flight with no issues. For every person who is able, I hear a number of stories of people who were turned away at check-in and even some who made it through check-in just to be turned away at the gate. I always recommend for people with larger small dogs to have a back up plan.

We did some serious consideration of the issue and determined that Sam would actually be an ideal candidate to fly in excess baggage. He has a calm and easy going temperament. His age is actually a bonus in this situation because he sleeps a lot anyways and is deaf, so he won’t be bothered by strange noises. Finally, he has considerable travel experience and loves his crate. He also doesn’t have any separation anxiety. It turns out that we know our dog well. He didn’t seem phased at all other than being very hungry by the time we arrived in Rome.

🐶 Thinking of getting a dog? Take our quiz to help you select the best breed for your travel style

Cost for flying with a pet on Air France and KLM in excess baggage

Flying Blue Airlines charge a flat rate of $400 for a pet in excess baggage on a Trans-Atlantic route at the time of our flight.

Air France and KLM pet crate requirements for excess baggage

Flying Blue Airlines (as well as all other EU airlines) follow the IATA regulations. It is important to read through the directions carefully to ensure you are meeting all the requirements.

  • rigid plastic crate with ventilation on 4 sides
  • The crate needs to be 1 1/2 times longer than your pet and twice as wide
  • A container with space for food and water needs to be attached
Sportpet airline pet kennel at airport

SportPet Designs Plastic Kennels Rolling Plastic Wire Door Travel Dog Crate

This crate comes with wheels. They will have to be removed for flying.

It is a solid crate that meets all the IATA criteria

Pet Reservations with Air France

You cannot add a pet to your flight reservation online with Air France, you must call customer service.  You can book a ticket and then call, or just call reservations and book, adding your pet at that time. I made the people and pet reservations on the phone at the same time because I wanted to ensure there was space

You can put in a request for a pet in-cabin and pay at the airport. One agent told me that was fine, but another agent later said their spot isn’t guaranteed until you pay, so she recommended paying ASAP.

Pro Tip: Set aside at least an hour for making your reservation. It can take quite a bit more time than if you just book for humans online.

Pet airport check-in for excess-baggage for international flights

pet kennel at airport getting zip ties put on

You cannot check-in online or through the app when you have a pet, you must check in at the counter, so allow extra time. 

The check-in agent requested to see our international health certificate.

They provided me with a checklist of IATA pet carrier requirements. I had to self-certify everything on the list and add my contact information. That form was tied to the crate.

The airline provided the green “live animal stickers” and zip ties.

The agent told us to take Sam outside for a final bathroom break then return about 45 minutes before boarding to drop him off. TSA checked the inside of his crate before he was escorted off by a baggage clerk.

Pet airport check-in for in-cabin

Perhaps because the focus was on Sam and the excess baggage, but no one said a word about Denver and/or his carrier other than checking he was included on the health certificate. They didn’t weigh him, measure his bag or provide any other scrutiny.

This seems to be a common experience for people flying with pets in cabin. On the other hand, some people receive careful inspections.

Going through airport security with a pet

norwich terrier and blog author standing in front of the TSA security scanner

You do have to carry your pet through security outside of their bag, so if you have a darter or cat, make sure you have a harness already. You can request private screening. We just walked through security with Denver in arms. His bag passed through the scanner.

How do I prepare my dog for a 10-hour flight?

I specifically chose the flight/route we took through Paris because Air France requires you to pick up your pet and check them in again.

I wanted to be able to check on Sam, give him a bathroom break and make sure he made it to the next flight. Most airlines will do the transfer behind the scenes.

Feeding and Potty Breaks

Norwich terrier standing on the astroturf in the pet relief area at SFO

Most US airports have a pet relief area after TSA.

Here’s what we did:

✅ Feed early at least 2 hours before the flight
✅ We took both dogs on an outside walk and bathroom break before going through TSA.
✅ We also take a small, collapsible bowl in case Denver needed water. Keeping them hydrated is important, but since bathroom breaks aren’t easy, use your best judgment.
✅ I scheduled a 3+ hour layover and provided a bathroom break, small amounts of water and a snack before getting on the final leg.

Lots of people have questions about how dogs use the bathroom on flights. This post gets into ALL the details.

Bringing dogs on a plane to the EU

During the flight, Denver was mostly silent and sleeping.  He is an experienced traveler, used to long trips in the car. The plane is noisier with a lot more vibration, but he still settled down after a 5-10 minutes of restlessness.

Pro Tip: Having snacks that crumble into your dogs bed are helpful both to get them into their bag and give them something to focus on as they get used to being on the plane. Rooting around for them helps keep them quiet in case they are jostled awake by bumps. 

Is sedating my pet for a long-haul flight a good idea?

A lot of people ask about meds or sedation. Most airlines will require you to sign something stating your pet is not sedated. 

I don’t think there is a one-size fits all answer to this question. It really depends on your dog’s level of anxiety and your vet’s recommendation.

Our vet recommended we not provide any sedation to our pets.

Pro Tip: Some people thoroughly exercise their pets before flights, but pre-flight cardio can be a problem because it can dehydrate them or make them gulp water and then need to pee. 
The better idea is mental stimulation– lots of sniffing, gentle play, hide and seek, puzzle games, etc. 
This tires them out mentally, makes them more likely to snooze longer, and reduces anxiety.

Airport Layovers with our furry friends

Air France requires the owner to collect their pet from over-sized baggage and re-check them. That means they require a 3+ hour lay-over in between flights.

I wanted to check on Sam in between flights, so this route worked best for us.

KLM, Lufthansa, and others will transfer your pet with their staff behind the scenes. They often require a lay-over of less than 3 hours. You will have to decide which route works best for your situation.

What do I need to take my dog to Italy from the USA?

The USDA APHIS states you will need proof of Rabies vaccine recorded with your pet’s microchip number

Rabies Vaccine

A receipt for the Rabies vaccine from your vet is not enough, you will need an endorsed certificate that have your pet’s microchip listed. 

The official rules for Italy say they need to be signed in blue ink. That caused tons of trouble and extra work for us. I’m not sure anyone noticed or cared. However, better to have it than not.


It is important for the rabies vaccine to be recorded with the microchip number, so you will want to get the microchip before the vaccine.

Health certificate – USDA endorsed

Bringing a dog to Italy from the USA: If you are traveling to the EU for the first time or on holiday, you will also need a USDA-endorsed certificate from your vet to enter the EU.

There is a high cost associated with it usually, but be kind to your vet! It is a laborious process and they are liable if even the smallest detail is wrong.

You will need to travel with 2 copies, as sometimes customs likes to take the original.

The USDA certificate must be signed by YOUR vet and a second USDA vet

The exam for the health certificate by your vet can be done up to 30 days prior to travel. However, all the vets I spoke to would only perform the exam within 10 days before travel adding to our stress level.

The USDA must endorse it within only 10 days.  This is the most stressful part, truthfully. 

I thought we were fine with our schedule, so I paid for 2 day delivery. There were some issues between the two vets that caused a delay. I had to go to the fedex pick up point the morning of our flight. I don’t recommend adding that stress to your life. Just pay the extra $50 for overnight shipping.

Pro Tip: A great thing to do is ask your vet if they do many travel certificates.  Vets that have experience with this timing tend to have the process down a bit more efficiently than vets who rarely do them. Vets physically nearer to international airports are generally better at these!  Not just any vet can sign, they must have an accreditation from the USDA– so check that as well!

What Happens Once We Arrive at the Rome Airport With My Pet?

Not much, really. We picked Sam up at the excess baggage drop point, grabbed out suitcases and walked out the door. We had already gone through immigration in Paris, but no one checked our vet paperwork at either location.

In talking with other people who travel to Rome with pets regularly, it seems rare that anyone in Rome checks the paperwork.


Is Italy a dog-friendly country?

Absolutely, Italy is generally considered a dog-friendly country.
Italy is known for allowing dogs in places that are not common in other countries including inside grocery stores and restaurants.
In terms of public transportation, dogs are permitted on trains in Italy, provided they are in a carrier or on a leash with a muzzle. However, rules may vary for buses and trams, with some only allowing small dogs in carriers, while others may not allow dogs at all, except for guide dogs.
You can read more about people’s experiences with their pets in Italy

Do I need an EU Pet Passport?

You can visit a government vet (ASL) in Italy and get your pet a passport. It might be a bit tricky since they require an address and it also helps if you have a tax ID (Codice Fiscale). Not all offices are willing to work with people just vacationing in Italy.

To get from Europe to the US with a pet, it is quite simple. You just need a copy of your pet’s current rabies vaccine with microchip notation. 

Do not purchase a pet passport online from the US. Those are not valid for entry into Italy nor for returning to the US. You can only get an EU Pet Passport in the EU and the entries need to be completed by a vet licensed in the EU.

Can I Take My Dog To Italy Without a Pet Passport?

You can not take your dog from anywhere in the EU without the official government paperwork. This includes rabies vaccine and health certificate. However, in the US, this document is not called a “pet passport”. If you are traveling within the EU, an official EU Pet Passport is useful.

Are Dogs Allowed In the Rome Airport?

Yes, dogs are allowed in the Rome Airport, but they must be kept in a secure, airline-approved carrier at all times, unless they’re assistance dogs. For travel, dogs must typically go in the cargo hold, except for small dogs on some airlines and certified assistance dogs. It’s crucial to check with your airline for their specific pet policies before arriving at the airport. Note that for international travel, pets must meet country-specific regulations, which often include official documentation.

How much does it cost to fly a dog International?

Every airline sets its own prices for the cost of flying a pet. If the animal goes in the cabin, expect to pay between $100-$250. Excess baggage ranges from about $300-500 depending on the airline. If the pet is flying cargo, there are so many variables including the pet’s weight, the airline, and whether a shipping company is used. Charges will easily be over $500 per pet and possibly into the thousands.

Do Italian Ferries have dog friendly cabins?

Yes, ferries are a common form of transportation to and from Italy. Pets are usually allowed on board and some lines have pet accepting cabins for overnight trips

Final Thoughts: Bringing a Dog to Italy from the USA

Sure, it might seem a tad bit overwhelming to fly from the United States to the European Union with a pet, but trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Just remember your to-dos: get the right vaccines, and get those necessary documents in order.

Preparing your pooch ahead of time with crate training and desensitization will go a long way to a successful trip in cabin or in excess baggage.

Once you get passed the hurdle of getting to Italy, you and your pup can live la dolce vita.

Resource Guide for Travel with a Dog

🧳 What’s the best carrier for my dog when traveling?

You need different carriers for different types of travel

This is my favorite carrier for a small dog – Sleepypod Air

This is my favorite car harness for medium-large dogs – Sleepypod Clickit

This is the best for a large dog on a plane – Skymate Kennel

This is my favorite backpack for a small-medium sized dog – Mr. Penuts Tahoe

You can read more about my review of types of dog carriers for travel here.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap pet-friendly hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend Expedia

Vacation Rentals are often the best option for people with pets VRBO

Stay for free or have someone watch your pet with Trusted Housesitters!

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