Travelling abroad with your dog
Things to consider before you firm up your holiday plans
If you're contemplating travelling abroad with your dog, there are clearly lots of things to consider.
It is worth doing your homework on the country you plan to visit. How dog friendly will it be, will you be expected to muzzle your dog when out and about, are there local Vets close by, is the climate suitable, (freezing temperatures or scorching heat can make your dog’s life intolerable), can you get hold of your dog’s usual food or will you have to take it with you?
It may be worth getting a new dog tag with your international contact details or even investing in a tracker. Losing your dog abroad could be your worst nightmare. Assuming that your dog is old enough to travel and well trained and that you found accommodation that is dog friendly and appropriate with plenty of places to walk, there is the vexed question of how to get there.
There is no doubt that travelling abroad has become harder and possibly more expensive since Brexit but if you want to take your 4-legged friend with you it is not impossible; you just need to prepare. You’ll need appropriate international travel insurance and legal documentation. Until January 2020 dog owners were permitted to travel with their dogs in Europe with a special passport but now your dog needs an animal health certificate (AHC). In order to qualify they must have an up-to-date microchip, all relevant vaccines, and a rabies vaccination that has been administered at least 21 days before you travel.
You may also be asked to state that you aren't intending to sell your pet abroad or transfer ownership.
Animal Health Certificate
We seriously recommend shopping around as prices can vary enormously. You may be fiercely loyal to your own vets but you could save over 100s of pounds choosing another practice to get the AHC. If you are lucky, you may be able to do this without switching clinics and moving the dog's entire medical history to the new clinic. Unlike the passport, which was valid for several trips, the AHC has to be renewed each time you travel. It is worth checking if your Vet will give you a reduction on the second or third application, but some will charge you the full cost each time you request an AHC. Some European countries such as Malta and Norway also request the tapeworm treatment so do check this out.
Travelling outside of Europe
If you're planning a trip outside the European Community different rules may apply. Your pet will need an export health certificate (EHC) to prove that you have everything that is required for that particular country. You apply for the EHC through the government animal and plant health agency and they can advise you on what's required. Most typically this will include proof of ownership, vaccine details including rabies and quite possibly insurance details. Even in the USA, where entering with your dog is relatively easy, you still have to prove that your dog hasn't been in a high-risk country for rabies in the past six months.
Travelling on planes
Many people ask if dogs can travel on planes. The simple answer is “yes” depending on the airline but once again it's worth checking with the airline provider. On some flights your dog may be permitted to sit under your seat in a carrier but in general they have to be under 8-10kgs. If your dog is heavier, it is possible to take your dog in the hold on some airlines but you will have to pay either way.
Travelling on a ferry
Travelling by ferry is an easier option and less expensive than flying but there will be rules depending on the carrier. On some ferries your dogs will be expected to remain in the vehicle for the length of the journey and they have to be secured with a proper restraint or in a safe pet carrier. If you're prepared to pay a little more and to shop around there are ferries which are equipped with dog friendly cabins and outdoor spaces where your dog can exercise and play with other dogs in a designated area.
Travel on Euro-Tunnel is quick and relatively stress free as both dogs and owners can stay together in the car. There are also specific dog exercise areas on both sides of the crossing. The cost is relatively inexpensive at around £22 each way (2023). Registered Guide and Assistance Dogs can generally travel free.
Eurostar is not registered as a carrier of pets and therefore, unable to make any exceptions and dogs are not permitted to travel. However, once you've reached Europe, train companies are a lot more understanding. In France SNCF permits dogs on board provided they are on a lead and muzzled. The tickets are relatively inexpensive.
If you return within four months the steps you took before you left should cover you. Make sure microchips and vaccines are up to date, as well as the rabies certificate, and you’ll need a valid health certificate. However, you do need to find a vet in the country because you need to have tapeworm treatment no less than 24 hours and no more than five days before you return. If you fail to do this your dog will not be allowed back in or could be required to quarantine for up to four months.
And if this all seems too much hassle?
There are other options that you can consider. Think about asking family and friends to look after your pet while you are away. Lots of people would love to have a dog but can't afford the time or money to do so full time so having a dog for a week or two is a special treat for them as well as your pooch who will probably get more fuss and walks than you normally give them. Do make sure you provide them with everything they're going to need.
Do your homework and find out from other dog owners which kennels they use. A good kennel will ensure that your dog gets the exercise it needs as well as the human company and the chance to socialise with other dogs.
There are a number of companies now offering a pet sitting service. They may come to your house and stay with your pet while you're away or they will keep them in their own homes. A Google search will come up with a list of recommended pet sitting companies
Of course you can always stay in the UK. Taking your dog with you is so much easier these days with dog friendly hotels, dog friendly air B&B's and cottages and dog friendly pubs but you need to know how well your dog will adapt to this; there's nothing worse than sleeping in a room next to a dog that barks all night long.
For more information on all legal requirements on travelling with your pets go to
Checklist of things to pack when travelling with your dog or leaving them in the care of a friend or professional sitter.Vets address and contact details
Treats and suggestions on how often they should be given
Balls and toys
Medication if required
Fold away crate or bed
Food - especially if your dog is a fussy eater or on a special diet
Water for the journey
Water and food bowls
A muzzle - worth trying this out before you go to be sure your dog will adapt to it
A harness or travel crate
Health documentation including vaccination card
First aid kit, ideally one to help with tick removal