Holidays with your dog

When it comes going on holiday overseas with your dog, you’ll need to be organised well in advance. Here’s what you ought to think about five weeks, two weeks and one week before you travel.

There’s lots to take into consideration when holidaying with your best friend: there’s the official paperwork and vaccinations, as well as the everyday things your dog will need to keep him or her safe, comfortable and happy while travelling abroad.

The rules for travelling with your dog vary from country to country and will also depend on the company you’re travelling with, so it’s crucial to check which vaccinations and what paperwork each country and carrier requires.

Your vet should be able to help you with the kind of vaccinations your dog will need. But you’ll need to contact the company you’re travelling with to find out its specific requirements.

You can also contact Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for advice:

Telephone 0370 241 1710 (+44 (0)370 241 1710 outside the UK). Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm UK time, closed on bank holidays.

Email pettravel@apha.gsi.gov.uk

It’s worth remembering that it’s not just about the paperwork you’ll need to travel to the country (or countries) you’ll be visiting, but also what paperwork you’ll need to re-enter the UK after your trip. Your dog could end up in quarantine for up to four months if you don’t have the right paperwork.

Five weeks to go...

There are some things it’s essential to prepare well ahead of time.

  • Check you can take your pet: Some companies like Eurotunnel happily take pets as long as they have a Defra-approved pet passport and their own ticket. Eurostar, however, only accept assistance dogs. It’s always worth checking that the company you’re travelling with actually accept pet passengers. 

  • Get your dog microchipped: All dogs should be microchipped by the age of eight weeks by law, whether they’re travelling out of the country or not. You’ll need to make sure your pup is microchipped well before you travel so your vet can record your dog’s unique microchip number on their pet passport. You’re also required to make sure your contact details are up-to-date, so if you’ve moved house or changed your phone number recently, now’s the time to update your details.

  • Book a rabies vaccination: All dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before they can travel to another EU country.

    You’ll have to wait 21 days after your dog’s vaccinated before they can travel. So, make sure you’re booked into see your vet well before your departure date.

    Even if your dog has already been immunised against rabies, they may still need a top-up vaccination. Most vaccinations will only be valid for 2-3 years – and different countries have different requirements, so do check before you travel.

  • Apply for a pet passport: Once you have your vaccinations and microchip sorted, you’ll need a pet passport if you’re travelling within the EU.

    Defra recommends you apply at least 28 days before your date of intended travel.

    If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can apply for your pet passport by calling 0370 241 1710 or emailing APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency): pettravel@apha.gsi.gov.uk

  • Check what other documents you might need: The company you’re travelling with may need a letter from your vet confirming your dog is healthy to travel. If you’re travelling outside of the EU, you’ll need to get an authorised vet to issue an official veterinary certificate instead of a pet passport.

Two weeks before…

If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving, now’s a good time to get your dog used to being in the car – if they’re not already. It’s important that they learn not to move around too much or bark excessively before your trip begins. It’ll be distracting and stressful for both of you if they’re boisterous while you’re trying to negotiate foreign roads.

Always make sure they have plenty of fresh air, shade and water. When your dog is nervous or excited they may pant and quickly become dehydrated. Other things to think about if you’ll be travelling by car:

  • How they’ll travel: You’ll also need to think about how safe and comfortable they’ll be in the car. Some countries require dogs to have canine seatbelts or be in specific cages.

  • How much you’re going to pack: You’ll need to make sure you leave enough space for your dog in the car so they’re comfortable and not squashed in with the luggage.

You should also double check your travel insurance. Does it cover your dog for emergency overseas vet and kennel costs? What about if your dog gets lost?

One week before…

There are a few last-minute essentials you’ll want to make sure you’ve included on your ‘to pack’ list:

  • ID tags: Your dog should always wear their ID tag with your name and address clearly visible.

  • Enough food and water: It sounds obvious but making sure these are packed and easily accessible while travelling can make rest-stops run a lot smoother. Also, make sure you have easy access to your dog’s water and food bowls, and their lead too. They’ll want to stretch their legs as much as you after a long journey.

  • Make sure to stock up on dog treats before your trip. It’s important to always reward your dog for good behaviour, especially after a long journey. They’ll begin to associate travelling with pleasure and start to enjoy the experience.

  • Their favourite toy or blanket: To soothe them with familiar smells and give them a taste of home.

While away…

Before you head home, it’s important to note that for your dog to return to the UK they must be given a tapeworm vaccination.

This cannot be done before you leave the UK – unless you’re only going for a day trip – as the treatment should be given between 24 and 120 hours before you check-in to come home. You’ll need to get this administered by a vet who should sign their pet passport to say it has been done.

However, you don’t need to treat your dog for tapeworm if you’re coming directly to the UK from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway.

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