If you’re planning a holiday overseas this year, boarding kennels aren’t the only option. Travelling abroad with a dog is a risky process involving a lot of forward planning - so to help you on your way, here’s some key tips on taking dogs abroad safely.
Some Important Considerations
Your pet will be used to UK temperatures - so avoid taking your pet to a very hot country as overheating can make dogs seriously unwell and can even kill them.
Alternatively, if you are travelling to somewhere very cold they may not cope with low temperatures, particularly if they are a breed with a short coat.
You will also need to consult your vet regarding your dog’s
- Temperament - are they easily stressed or sensitive to change?
- Training - are they well trained (I.e., will they behave well?) Are they crate trained?
- Age - can they keep up with you? Or are they too young to travel (taking dogs under 3 months old is generally not advised)
- Health- do they become nauseous easily? Are they well enough? Are they pregnant?
Check With The Hotel
...before you check in at the hotel. Different places have their own policies - so let them know well in advance that you want to bring your dog and ask what facilities are available there.
Add These Items To Your Checklist
If You are going abroad there are a few extras you might need to consider adding to your checklist - both before you leave - and for the return.
- You must have a pet passport with section I-IV completed (also section V if you are going to an unlisted country - this will require a blood test).
- These can be issued by your vet. Ensure first that they are LVI (local veterinary inspector) authorised and be sure to bring current vaccination records with you.
- International travel carries risks - so don’t forget to also include your pet when making your insurance plan.
- If travelling to Europe or Northern Ireland, your dog will need an animal health certificate. You can get this from your vet (no more than 10 days before you leave).
Vaccinations And Any Other Required Medical Treatments
As vets can become very busy, it’s wise to book well in advance.
Your dog will need:
- A tapeworm treatment (your pet will need this if you are travelling to Norway, Malta, Finland, Northern Ireland or Ireland). Make sure your appointment for this is booked for between 24 hours and five days before arrival at your destination - the earlier the better. While at the appointment you may also be able to get your Animal Health Certificate, if timings allow.
- A microchip (essential in case you lose your dog).
- A rabies vaccination.
About The Rabies Vaccination
- If your dog has not travelled, or if their rabies vaccination is out of date, visit your vet at least 21 days prior to travelling.
- Your dog must be at least 12 weeks old to get the rabies vaccine.
- After the vaccination, you cannot travel for 21 days.
During the vaccination process make sure you make a record of the following:
- The microchip number, date it was inserted and where it is located on your dog
- The vaccine product name
- The vaccination date
- The batch number
- Your dog’s date of birth and aged
Essentials To Pack For Your Dog:
Make up a doggy travel pack with all the essentials you need. If flying, this should fit inside your carry-on luggage and should also include any important paperwork you might need.
- Food (this is best stored in plastic bags to minimise weight)
- Identity tag
- LED collar (or an attachable light)
- Lead (always keep your dog on the lead while travelling)
- Grooming equipment
- Medications (you may wish to discuss with your vet what you should bring with you and ensure that you have enough with you in case your dog’s medication is difficult to access in the country you are travelling to).
- A Canine first aid kit: Ideally, you should never have need for this - however it can offer peace of mind.
Other Useful Items (For On The Go)
- Travel water bottle
- Pet carrier
- Seat belt restraint
- Car harness
- Travel sickness tablets for your dog
- Familiar-smelling items such as a blanket
- Dog treats
Check The Rules
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel restrictions are subject to change - so check what the rules are for your destination well in advance. Most countries do not quarantine pets - although countries with stricter regulations may have differing policies.
Unfortunately, some countries do not allow certain breeds as they are considered to be potentially dangerous (even if you know otherwise) - regardless of whether they have the relevant medical treatment or paperwork. Some countries will return the dog to your home country at your expense or worse, potentially euthanize them - so take special care with this. See here for a list of pet-friendly countries.
You may also find that certain countries require additional measures like import permits (Australia, France and the Bahamas all require these) and blood titer tests- particularly if you are travelling from a rabies-controlled or high-rabies country. In any case, consult the USDA website or contact your destination’s embassy before you go.
For journeys back to the UK, there are requirements your dog needs to meet, which may vary depending where you are travelling from, including travel in an authorised carrier. You can check these here.
Some Travel Tips For Dog Owners
Whether you are taking a train, plane or automobile - if you are travelling with your dog, it’s important to help your dog stay calm and healthy on your journey. No matter your mode of transportation, pack plenty of treats and water.
Travelling By Car
Here are some tips to help you prepare for a car journey:
- Never leave your dog alone in the car for any length of time - especially when it’s hot.
- Make sure both the car and their container are well ventilated.
- Avoid feeding your dog too soon before or after travelling (two hours either side is advisable).
- Plan your journey so your pet can take plenty of bathroom breaks and exercise.
- Ensure they always have access to water (bring a travel bottle and bowl).
- Make sure your dog is secure using a seat belt restraint, harness, or pet carrier.
Travelling By Ferry
Aside from travelling by car, a ferry is one of the easier ways to travel with a dog. Policies vary depending on the company - so contact them in advance and check their website for details.
Consider the following:
- How comfortable your dog is with travelling?
- The weather - do not travel on a hot day and your dog should be kept in a well ventilated, cool area
- In some cases, your dog will not be allowed on deck. Some companies also do not allow people to go to their cars so you may not be able to check your dog during the journey.
- Access to fresh drinking water.
Travelling by Train
Dogs can travel for free on British domestic trains. You can bring up to two pets per passenger, who must be kept on a lead and must be well-behaved around passengers. Be aware of travelling during peak hours as this could distress your dog, especially if they’re un-used to rail travel - in which case a “trial ride” is advisable first.
Travelling by Air
This is the least favoured method of travel for dog owners - and with good reason: travelling in cargo has also been known to cause health risks to dogs, particularly during the summer months- and especially for short nosed breeds prone to respiratory issues.
Depending on their size, your dog might be allowed in the cabin - otherwise they will have to be placed in the cargo hold - in which case it’s important to soothe them.
If you must fly:
- Contact your airline to ask what steps you need to take.
- Determine which flight-type will be most comfortable for your dog (even if it’s less convenient for you) such as a low-light red-eye or night flight where your dog will feel less need to urinate and may be able to sleep.
- Where possible, use the animal relief station before you board - and line their carrier with pee pads (just in case). If they’re in the cabin with you, pick an aisle seat and take them to the bathroom with a pee pad.
- Ensure their crate can fit under the seat in front (if your dog is allowed in the cabin) and in either case, make sure it is large enough for them to stand, sit and lie down in - and sturdy (to withstand turbulence).
- Consider whether you’ll be flying through a country with stricter pet regulations than your destination - especially if you are taking a connecting flight.
- If a layover is required, try and choose one with a longer interval. A 24-hour layover will give everyone the chance to relax while minimising stress and the need to toilet for your pet .
- Remember that some international airports do not permit domestic animals - so make sure the one you arrive in is “import friendly”.
- Throughout, keep your dog calm, fed and hydrated. Avoid traveling when it is hot, and rather than using frozen water (which could hurt your dog’s tongue, consider using a no-drip water bottle.
- Soothe your dog with a familiar-smelling blanket or toy - but do not use tranquilizers as these can cause cardiovascular or respiratory issues due to pressure changes. Also, if there is turbulence and your dog is drowsy, they could fall and injure themselves.
- Place extra padding and blankets inside their crate in case to prevent slippage and give them a soft surface to sleep on.
Consider A Pet Transport Company
Pet transport companies will be aware of all requirements for taking dogs abroad - including medicines and paperwork. They can organise appointments with vets, supply crates and advise on flights and airline policies. These are particularly useful when travelling to more difficult destinations or if you are new to travelling abroad with a dog.
While You’re There
Keep to their regular routine as much as possible by maintaining the same times for meals, food and toilet breaks.
Here are other ways to minimise stress:
- Keeping to the same diet to avoid stomach upset.
- Giving your dog plenty of (supervised) time to explore.
- “Scenting” your hotel room by placing the “familiar smell” items in their dog bed or where they are likely to spend a lot of time.
- Allowing them to rest to avoid stress or overstimulation
- Not leaving them alone for a period of time that might cause distress: the RSPCA recommends no longer than four hours at a time (though this may be less depending on the needs of your dog).
Keeping Them Safe
- Do not leave your dog anywhere they could come to harm, e.g. tied up outside a shop.
- Check up on them regularly to see whether they are stressed, bored, or unwell.
- Walk your dog on a lead unless you are absolutely certain that it’s safe to let them off well away from roads and any other hazards.
- If walking in dim light or darkness, use your LED collar or light so that others can see your dog.