Dog running through the waves on the beach

Travelling abroad with dogs

  • Dogs can travel abroad to EU countries without the need for quarantine if they qualify for a pet passport
  • This currently requires dogs to have a microchip and rabies jab before travel, and tapeworm treatment before their return
  • Owners should always check the latest restrictions and check for any further health risks that travel to a new country may pose
  • You should also be confident that your dog can tolerate what may be a long journey and consider alternative arrangements if not

Dogs are part of the family, so it’s understandable that many people want to include them on holidays. Thanks to the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which the UK is currently part of, it is possible for them to travel with you freely between EU countries and a long list of others without the need for quarantine providing certain health requirements are met and a pet passport has been issued. Globetrotting cats and ferrets are also covered by the Pet Travel Scheme.

There is not yet any indication from the UK government over what, if any, scheme will remain in place when Britain exits the European Union in 2019. So do bear that in mind before planning any trips beyond this point. It’s crucial that you check the government website carefully for the latest requirements before planning a trip or leaving the UK, as these could change at any time. The rules vary when travelling to and from 'unlisted countries' outside of the EU, including additional rabies precautions.

Dog sits on beach
The Pet Travel Scheme allows dogs to travel to other EU countries without the need for quarantine if certain health requirements are met.

Before you go

How do I get a pet passport?

In order to travel, your dog will need a pet passport which you can obtain from certain registered vets. If your regular vet can’t issue a passport, they will be able to point you in the direction of one that does. The passport will include your pet’s photo and acts as proof that they meet the health requirements set out by the scheme. The cost is approximately £200 and your dog needs to be at least 12 weeks old.

What is required for a pet passport?

  • A microchip (this is compulsory for all dogs in the UK even if they don’t travel)
  • A rabies jab (at least 21 days before re-entering the UK)
  • Tapeworm treatment (24- 120 hours before entering the UK)
  • Up-to-date vaccinations
  • Photograph

But these requirements can change at any time, so check very the latest requirements on the government’s website before planning any trips. If you don't meet the right requirements, then your dog is at risk of having to go into quarantine.

A dog on a canal boat

Research additional requirements

Before you travel you must check if there are any further health requirements which may need to be recorded on your pet passport, any diseases or parasites to be aware of or laws in a country that are different to those here in the UK. For example, there are diseases in the southern Mediterranean and other areas which it’s advisable to protect your pet against.

Make sure you ask your vet about any health risks and for advice about protection against ticks, mosquitos and sandflies, which can spread diseases. There may also be other hazards, such as blisters to the feet from hot surfaces or poisonous snakes which you and your pet are not familiar with.

Laws on dog ownership vary between countries; in Italy, for instance (as well as aboard some ferries), all dog owners can be asked to muzzle their pet in public, so you will need to purchase one and ensure your dog is trained to wear one, and keep it with you at all times.

Pet insurance

We strongly recommend that you ensure that your pet’s insurance covers trips abroad in the event of any injury or illness.

Rough collie enjoys the beach
Make sure the destination you want to visit is dog friendly.

Where should I take my pet on holiday?

You’ll need to consider a number of factors when choosing a destination, including:

  • The availability of dog-friendly accommodation
  • Ensuring there is access to open space to exercise your dog and let them toilet
  • Will they be able to accompany you to restaurants and attractions such as beaches? If not, will they be comfortable being left in unfamiliar surroundings?
  • What will the weather be like? Are you likely to be out exploring with your dog in soaring temperatures? If so, this could pose a health risk to your pet.
  • Researching the nearest vets or animal hospital in the event of an emergency
  • The length and type of journey and the impact this may have on your animal

Travelling with your dog

If you’re taking your pet abroad for a family holiday, you will more than likely be driving and this is the most convenient and dog-friendly way of travelling. It means that you have the option of travelling by car ferry or Eurotunnel to your chosen destination. Do bear in mind that there is often a charge attached to this, and not all ferry providers allow pets on board.

On arrival at the port, your pet’s microchip will be scanned. It’s a good idea to get your vet to check the microchip is easily detectable before you leave to avoid any delays. Some ferry companies require your dog to be muzzled when this check is done, and when your pet is travelling through the ferry to a cabin or dog-friendly area, so make sure you have one and your dog is trained to wear it if required.

Dog in harness in a car

On some routes and ferries, pets are required to stay in the car on their own for the duration of the trip. Blue Cross never recommends leaving a dog in a car for any amount of time, so this will need very cautious consideration – not only can it be stressful for them, it is also a health risk due to the rapid rate at which temperatures can rise in a vehicle. There have been reports of dog deaths during ferry crossings of this kind and we strongly recommend finding a ferry company that allows your pet to stay with you for the duration of the crossing, or placed in an appropriate kennel on board. Some ferry companies allow dogs on board as foot passengers, but you’ll need to carefully plan your transport either side.

Eurotunnel also requires dogs to remain in the car, but you can remain in the car with them and the journey is usually far shorter and cooler. There is dedicated exercise areas for dogs at either side of the crossing which owners are encouraged to use.

A select number of airlines allow dogs on board, but unless they are assistance pets they must travel as cargo and this can be particularly stressful as well as a health risk, so not something Blue Cross would recommend as a mode of transport for a holiday.

Things to remember for your journey:

Dog drinking out of a water bowl
Ensure that you're prepared for the journey, and that includes taking plenty of water for your dog.
  • A crate for the car or a safe car harness for your dog
  • Plan regular rest and exercise breaks
  • Make sure there’s a plentiful supply of water for your dog
  • Take steps to keep them cool
  • Favourite treats and the right amount of food. If your pet has a sensitive tummy it may be best to take enough food with you to last the entire trip as the availability of brands can be limited in some areas.
  • Comfy bedding
  • Familiar toys to keep them reassured and occupied
  • Poo bags
  • A collar with a tag including your mobile phone number
  • A muzzle (if required)

Bringing your dog back into the UK

Usually, the tapeworm treatment will need to be administered in the country you’re visiting. This is normally given in tablet form and you will need to make sure the vet stamps and dates your pet passport to prove the treatment has been administered. There is often a good choice of registered vets at crossing ports.

Should my dog stay at home instead?

It’s important that your dog will be tolerant of any long car journeys and sea crossings. Some dogs struggle with car sickness or are anxious of travel. Other dogs find it distressing and overwhelming to be out of their usual home environment. Some destinations, although accessible, are not particularly dog-friendly and may not be enjoyable for your pet as a result. In any of these cases, leaving your dog at home with a trustworthy dog sitter or placing them in reputable boarding kennels might be a better option. Read our advice on finding the right holiday care for your pet.

Rotweiller Kaiser runs across a beach
— Page last updated 14/06/2018

Did you find this helpful?

We provide free pet advice as every pet deserves to be well looked after. We treated around 35,000 sick injured and homeless pets last year. We're so glad we've been able to help these pets who are unable to help themselves, but there are thousands of sick and lonely pets still in need, so we need to ask for a small favour.

All of our work is funded entirely through donations. People like you are essential to our work. If everyone who benefits from our articles is able to give a little back, we can reach thousands more pets. For as little as £1 you can make a difference - do you have one minute? Thank you.