OzTREKK Ambassadors: Taking dogs to Australia
When people heard that I was planning to take my dogs with me to medical school in Australia many thought I was crazy. But the truth is, even before I applied to school in Australia, I had already looked up to make sure I could take my dogs. They are a part of my family and going without them was never an option.
Thinking about taking a dog (or cat) over is a daunting process, but I want to reassure you it is possible! The biggest thing to know is the timeline of events and to understand the costs.
First up, timeline
Take a look at the Government of Australia Department of Agriculture website http://www.agriculture.gov.au/cats-dogs for all of your timeline specific questions. I will go through a little bit of the important information for you. When you click on the link, you will input the species (dog/cat) country of export (Canada) and date of export. I put in January 6, 2020 seeing as many programs in Australia start the end of January. It will then generate a schedule of events, like the one drawn up for me (as your example).
You can click on each one of the links (e.g., “Visit your vet”) and it will tell you exactly what you need to do during that visit. Pretty straight forward, hey? Yes, in essence it is very straight forward. In reality, things can get complicated.
First of all, take note of the dates in the timetable. If you’re planning to take your dog over in the beginning of January, your first vet visit needs to be in the next 10 days. I didn’t know about this calculator until much later than June of last year so don’t panic. The first visit is just to check microchip number and confirm rabies vaccination. Most dogs should be up to date on their rabies vaccination regardless.
The important thing to not miss this summer is the second vet visit (in this calculator it says July 10) and that is for a blood test for rabies. The blood needs to be drawn a minimum of 180 days before the dog can set foot in Australia and they are very strict about these dates. Also, the blood test is $400 (I for one was surprised by the cost for a blood test, but it is what it is). I had this blood test done for both dogs before I even knew I was accepted to school (that didn’t come until the end of August). So sometimes it’s a bit of a gamble if you want to bring your dogs in January. Of course, they can come later if you want to wait to get confirmation of acceptance first.
Second thing I learned the hard way—get the test for Ehrlichia canis early! This is a test for a tick disease that is quite common in tropical areas, but dogs can get it in lots of different climates. This test is performed (as per their schedule) a week before the dog is going to travel. One of my dogs came back positive for it, I got the news on Christmas Eve and the vet said he might never be able to go to Australia. It was one of the worst days I can remember. We were able to treat it with antibiotics (30 days) and when we retested him he came back negative. However, it is difficult to treat because the test they require looks for the antibody count rather than the active bacteria, meaning my dog didn’t have any symptoms but had the leftover antibodies because he had the bacteria years before I ever rescued him from Mexico. There is no guarantee that treating a dog that tests positive will lower their antibody count enough to test “negative.” If you go online to web forums you will find that this surprise a week before travel is not all that uncommon. There are tons of stories just like mine where the owners are floored, travel plans have to be altered, and emotions run high.
Now, just because your dog has tested negative to Ehrlichia canis early (say this summer) you still have to repeat the test a week before travel; however it should hopefully avoid the panic and heartache that I experienced. You will have your dog on tick medication from this summer up until the travel so it should avoid any surprises.
Second up, cost
Taking a dog to Australia is not cheap, and there’s no way around it. But it’s doable and completely worth it! Here is the cost breakdown (very rough):
Rabies test: $400
Flea/tick meds: $70
Each vet visit: ~$70 (x5 total vet visits)
Other tests required (Ehrlichia, lepto, etc.): ~$300
Microchip: ~$100 (I forget the exact cost)
Application permit fee: $1200
Flight (they have to fly directly into Melbourne): ~$1100
10 days of quarantine: ~$400
Airline-approved dog crate: ~$80
Keep in mind this breakdown is very rough and varies by vet, flights, if you already have a microchip, etc., but it’s good to have a rough idea.
We used a wonderful company called Worldwide Animal Travel to help with this whole process. They helped organize all of the paperwork, double checked that we had the correct lab results, vet signatures, took the forms to get the government approval, etc. They’ve done this a million times and really know what they are doing. Think of them like OzTREKK for pets! They even have an office at the Vancouver airport where the dogs got to be out of their crate relaxing before the flight. They took them for a walk, fed them dinner, sent us picture updates and then put them on the plane. The peace of mind knowing we weren’t alone in this process was well worth the money. I believe the cost difference working with them compared to doing it on our own was about $2000 (for both dogs).
Our journey with the dogs was far from straightforward and got so much more complicated when we were in Australia and the dogs were back in Canada (delayed because of Brek’s positive Ehrlichia canis result). We had to reset the dogs’ travel dates three times. With each change of date we had to redo different tests because they are only valid for a set number of days before travel. Thank goodness I had Worldwide Animal Travel to fall back on because otherwise I would have been even more overwhelmed in the first few months of medical school trying to organize vet visits while I’m halfway around the world. This is in no way sponsored by them (although I would have happily agreed to that lol). They did a phenomenal job helping us out at such a stressful time and I am so thankful we had their support.
I could go on and on about every detail regarding taking dogs to Australia. It was a very long and somewhat tedious process. I know ours was especially complicated (you can read a bit more on my instagram page @noborders.md), but it was completely worth it! The dogs did wonderful and they survived the 10-day quarantine. They were of course very excited to see us but they didn’t have any signs of distress or maltreatment. You aren’t allowed to visit them during quarantine, but you can call them daily and ask for updates (which I did).
I know this process seems scary and a bit overwhelming, especially on top of moving your entire life around the world. But take it day by day, one vet appointment at a time, and just use the website as a checklist. If you’re able to afford some help, I recommend talking with Worldwide Animal Travel; I believe they have offices across Canada.
Having your dog(s) over here when you’re in school is incredible! It makes this place feel so much more like home and it’s such a great balance to the grind of school. I would do the process again in a heartbeat. I hope this brief introduction helps clarify some of aspects of bringing dogs over. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to reach out!