Travelling abroad with your pet

Travelling at Home and Abroad with Your Pet

Last updated: December 6th, 2018

Are you one of the 1/3 of all pet owners in the UK who takes their pet with them on holiday?

If you are, then as summer approaches and thoughts move to going on holiday at home or abroad, now is a good time to think about travelling with your pet. In this blog article, read our advice for travelling abroad or within the UK with your pet by road, rail, sea or air; which will hopefully help make your journey safer and more enjoyable for you and your pet.

Travelling abroad with your pet

You can travel to or from the UK with your pet cat, dog or ferret if it meets the following requirements:

  • has been microchipped
  • has a pet passport or third-country official veterinary certificate
  • is vaccinated against rabies – it will also need a blood test if you’re travelling from an ‘unlisted country’
  • Dogs must also usually have a tapeworm treatment.

Your pet may be put into quarantine for up to 4 months if you don’t follow these rules – or refused entry if you travelled by sea. You will be responsible for any fees or charges (some pet insurance policies will cover this though).

There are different rules for entering other countries from the UK with your pet, and you will also need to use an approved transport company and route. Check the government’s website for more details.

Pet passport

A Pet Passport is only required for cats, dogs and ferrets, and lists all the treatments and vaccinations your pet has received. You can obtain it from certain vets in the EU and other listed countries.

You will need a pet passport if you’re travelling to the UK from an EU country, another country the UK accepts pet passports from, or from the UK to a listed or unlisted country and then returning to the UK (although you can’t do this after your pet’s rabies vaccination has expired).

Find out more about pet passports here.

20 Top tips for travelling with your pet

Before your journey

  1. Check with your vet to be make sure that your pet is fit to travel.
  2. Make sure your pet carrier is suitable, and if you’re flying that it meets the minimum requirements of the airline (most airlines require a carrier that is IATA compliant).
  3. Purchase your pet carrier in advance of your trip so that your pet can get used to it.
  4. If your pet isn’t used to long car journeys, take them in the car a few times before your holiday so they get used to it.
  5. Make sure you notify the airline or ferry company well in advance, as they often have limits on the number of pets they accept on each flight or crossing.
  6. When planning your return journey, give careful consideration to the timing of the tapeworm treatment for dogs.
  7. Make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations.
  8. Ensure you have sufficient prescription medications if required, as it may be hard to obtain them abroad.
  9. Get all your pet’s travel documentation in order, including signatures from the vet as required.
  10. If you have pet insurance, make sure your policy will cover you abroad. If you don’t have pet insurance, consider taking out a policy (read our guide on pet insurance).

When travelling

  1. Put an unwashed t-shirt with your scent on it in your pet’s travel carrier – this will comfort your pet.
  2. Put familiar toys and/or bedding inside their carrier, but make sure the toys can’t injure your pet if they move around. Absorbent pads are also useful in case of any little “accidents” that your pet may have while travelling.
  3. Feed your pet at least a few hours before travelling – ̶ do it later and they may get travel sick.
  4. Always allow time for your pet to go to the toilet before you set off.
  5. Give your pet plenty of exercise before they travel – they’re likely to be less restless on the journey.
  6. Make signs to stick on your pet’s carrier if they are flying in the cargo hold, such as “My name is xxx, this is my first flight and I’m a bit scared – please talk to me.” They’ll feel better if someone talks to them and uses their name.
  7. If your pet is flying, consider taping a zip-lock storage bag of dry food and a lead to the top of the crate. If there is a delay, they they can be let out of the crate and fed.
  8. Do NOT give your pet a sedative or tranquilliser prior to flying. This is because they can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems due to the pressure differences at altitude. They can also affect the animal’s ability to balance, which can be dangerous when the carrier is moved.
  9. Carry a current photograph of your pet. If they become lost during your trip, a photograph will make it much easier for people to search for your pet.
  10. Freeze a bowl of water, or make ice cubes, in advance of travel so that your pet can lick the ice as it melts. This also prevents spillage inside the carrier.

Travelling with your pet by car

If your journey involves driving, then your main priority is keeping your pet comfortable and safe in your car. The Highway Code (and common sense) says that dogs or other animals should be restrained so that they don’t distract the driver, or are injured if you have to stop suddenly or are involved in an accident.

Dogs should at the very least be tethered to a seatbelt using an appropriate harness. For additional safety, they can travel inside a crate, anchored using the car’s seat belt. Both soft and hard crates are available, in a variety of sizes, to suit your pet.

It’s also advisable for your pet to travel on the back seat, as in the event of an accident the front airbags could injure or even kill your pet.

For your pet’s comfort, it’s good to take more comfort stops that you may usually do. It’s also advisable for your pet to have some ID attached (microchip, collar and an ID tag is ideal) just in case they escape from your car at a stop.

You should also try to avoid leaving them alone in your car. Not only are they at risk from overheating (read about the dangers of dogs in hot cars here), but they could also be targeted by thieves.

Travelling with your pet by air

If you need to travel further afield with your pet, then you can fly with them and most airlines are happy to carry pets, with certain conditions.

Air travel is particularly risky for brachycephalic pets (those with squashed faces), such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Persian cats, so many airlines do not allow them to fly. This is because their short nasal passages mean they are particularly susceptible to oxygen deprivation when at altitude and heat stroke.

Most airlines also don’t allow you to take dogs listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Pets are typically transported in the cargo hold which is pressurised and temperature controlled.

Age requirements

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that your animal must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling with the airlines. Many airlines require that your pet must be at least 15 weeks of age before traveling internationally.

Pet carrier requirements

If you’re flying with your pet, you will need a suitable pet carrier. Most airlines require a carrier that is IATA compliant, and some of the requirements are as follows:

  • The pet crate must be large enough for your pet(s) to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably (brachycephalic breeds will require one size larger than normal for those airlines that permit them to fly in cargo).
  • The crate must be sturdy and made of fiberglass, metal, rigid plastics, weld metal mesh, solid wood or plywood (not all airlines will allow wooden carriers)
  • The floor must be solid and leakproof.
  • The container door must have a secure, spring loaded, all-around locking system. Many airlines will also require that the door be further secured with cable ties at each corner.
  • Your pet’s nose and paws should not be able to fit through any ventilation opening or door mesh.
  • Both water and food bowls must be attached to the inside of the front door and be refillable from the outside without opening the door.
  • The container must have ventilation on all 4 sides.
  • The container must have LIVE ANIMAL STICKERS on the top and sides.
  • If the container has wheels, they should be removed or taped securely so that the carrier cannot roll.
  • The container should be identified with you pet’s name and your contact information.

You should always check with your airline though in case they have any additional requirements.

Assistance dogs

UK, European and most international air carriers will provide floor space in an adjoining seat or across the bulkhead (usually at no additional charge) to guide and assistance dog owners. However, you should check with your airline as some will charge a reduced fee for additional floor space.

Travelling with your pet by train

Most national train companies allow you to take up to 2 pets (dogs, cats or other small animals) with you free of charge. Dogs will need to be on a lead or in a basket, and other animals will need to be in a rigid carrier. If you transport your pet in a carrier, it should be big enough for them to be able to stand up and lie down in comfort.

Animals and containers must not occupy seats, otherwise a charge will be made.

Travelling with your pet by sea

Eurotunnel

One of the most popular ways to cross the English Channel and travel to Europe is to book with Eurotunnel. The main advantage if you’re travelling with your pet is that your pet stays with you in the comfort of your own car, and the journey time is much faster than with a ferry.

Eurotunnel charge an extra £18 for pet dogs, cats and ferrets (each way). Other smaller animals such as pet rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles all travel free of charge.

Another advantage of using Eurotunnel is that they have a dedicated pet exercise area at each of their terminals.

Ferries

Taking your pet abroad if you travel by ferry will cost you a varying amount depending on the route and operator. For example, P&O Ferries charge an additional £15 per pet each way (Dover to Calais) or £17 (Hull to Rotterdam).

You will have to leave your pet in your car, or in the on-board kennels depending on the operator and ship, so it’s always best to check before booking. If you have to leave your pet in your car, some ferry companies will let you visit your pet at certain times (accompanied by a member of staff), however this is not usually permitted on overnight sailings.

Some ferry companies also insist that your dog must wear a muzzle at all times during the short transfer between your vehicle and your pet’s accommodation and also at any time whilst out in exercise areas. It’s also typical that your pet will not be allowed in your cabin.