Pet travel guide for dogs 

Written by Robert Ayers MRCVS
August 23, 2023

This guide covers outward and inward travel of pet dogs between the UK and other EU countries and export to non-EU countries. 

When planning a trip abroad or emigrating to another country with your pet, the most important thing to give yourself is time. Some countries have requirements to fulfil up to 1 year before travel. Ignoring these requirements will mean that you cannot travel on the date you wanted to travel. There are no exceptions. 

In all situations you should contact your vet in good time. This may need to be a year before travel for some countries. For EU countries I would advise contacting them several months before travel. This is not only for advice but to make sure they have a veterinary surgeon with the relevant qualifications (OV) to get the certification you need to travel. Find a vet who is confident they can help you from start to finish. Ask in detail about this, especially for complicated imports. 

EU/EEA - Animal health certificates

Travel within the EU used to be controlled by the PETS passport travel scheme. Since Brexit, pet passports issued in the UK are now no longer valid in the EU. This means that in most cases an animal health certificate is needed instead. The only exception being animals with an EU issued pet passport completed by an EU vet. UK vets are no longer allowed to write in EU pet passports. 

To travel your dog will need: 

  • A working microchip that was placed before/as the required vaccinations, medications or certificates are given/made. This is for identification.​
  • A valid rabies vaccination performed 21 days or more before the date of entry into the EU. Most UK rabies vaccinations last 3 years before needing a booster but confirm this with your vet. The minimum age of vaccination is 12 weeks meaning no pet dog under 15 weeks old can travel.​
  • An animal health certificate (AHC) filled in by an Official Veterinarian (OV) in the 10 days prior to travel. The OV will need to examine your dog in this time. They may also require proof of rabies vaccination to affix to the AHC. The OV will need to prepare the correctly translated certificate for the first country in the EU you will enter, so inform them of this information.​
  • If travelling to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, or Norway, a tape worming treatment will need to be administered by a vet 24-120 hours before the time of entry. Any qualified veterinarian should be able to perform this and certify that it has been done.​

Your issued AHC is valid for 4 months of onward travel within the EU, and for re-entry to the UK in this time. Up to 5 animals may be recorded on one AHC. 

For re-entry to the UK, instead of the previous valid AHC, a valid EU issued pet passport can be used. The rabies vaccine must still be up to date and tape worming performed 24-120 hours before re-entry by a vet. 

Other Countries - Export health certificates

To export dogs to other countries around the world, the requirements vary a great amount. 

Although an Official Veterinarian (OV) may help guide you, it is your responsibility to find out the exact requirements set by the country you are travelling to. The OV will likely not be familiar with the exact up to date requirements of the country you want to travel to.

You will need to: 

  • Make sure a working microchip is placed in your dog before any required vaccinations, medications or certificates are given/made. This is for the identification of your dog during travel​. 
  • Find the relevant Export Health Certificate (EHC) on the UK.gov website​​. A completed EHC is generally the minimum needed for export. Supporting documents included with the EHC will also contain guidance for the OV and yourself about exactly what steps should be taken. Any links to a foreign government official site detailing requirements will be included here​. Select the country with the tick boxes, then find the relevant paperwork for your pet on the right. Please note different countries will group species/situations differently. 
    However, for most cases, owners will choose to use a dedicated export company. They will make a timeline, after getting all the information about the requirements. They will then obtain the correct certificates and tell you when to book appointments. Generally they will hold your hand the whole way through. 
  • Follow all requirements for the country you are exporting to. This will often include rabies and other vaccinations, ecto- and endoparasitic treatments. It will also include application and payment for import permits for the destination country and the completed EHC. Sometimes blood tests for infectious diseases are also required. There may be other unique requirements depending on both the destination country and other countries being travelled through. 

Ultimately, taking your dog abroad can take a large amount of organisation, as well as contingency-planning for any unwanted delays. Sometimes delays may be due to error or just misfortune. Often is the result of a failed test which must be rectified and repeated. It is possible to travel with pet dogs but it takes careful planning.

Advised Preparation 

It may not be legally required for certain vaccinations or preventative medications to have been given. However, it is worth discussing recommendations with your vet. Also discuss it with local veterinarians in the destination country as they will be more aware of local diseases. 

Good recommendations could include (but not limited to): 

  • Up to date core vaccinations in addition to rabies vaccinations. 
  • Ecto- and endoparasitic prevention including anticipated local parasites and vectors that could transmit disease. This could mean adding in tick prevention, or repellents against mosquitos and sandflies. 
  • Giving another worming tablet one month after the first 

Top tips

  • Start thinking about travel for your pet dog early. 
  • Contact and discuss with your vet. 
  • Follow all advice from your vet and both governments of the countries you are travelling to and from. 
  • Plan for things to go wrong. 
  • Take responsibility for making sure everything is adhered to. Double check every requirement and that everything is booked in when it should be. Your vet may remind you if they think something is planned wrong, but do not expect them to.

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