Guide to travelling abroad with your pet

by Julia on January 15, 2016

Since the introduction of pet passports more than fifteen years ago, more and more people are choosing to take their pets abroad with them when they travel. Whilst ensuring that you have the proper documentation for your pet is a vital component, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of factors to consider to make travelling with pets a positive experience for all.

Should you take your pet abroad on holiday?

The first major decision is whether to take your pet away with you at all. Some types of animal don’t tend to travel well in general, such as cats, so owners must weigh up whether it will be unnecessarily stressful for their pet to take them on this type of trip.

If flying to your destination, it’s wise for owners to consider how their pet will cope with the sights, sounds and sensations of travelling in the cargo hold of an airplane. Some very small dogs are able to travel in the cabin with some airlines, but there are very stringent regulations to follow and an additional cost to take into account even aside from the pet passport requirements.

Although some dogs are fine with car, ferry or rail travel, others can find it very stressful indeed, maybe even suffering from motion sickness, so owners need to make the call on whether it will be fair on their pet to bring them along rather than leave them behind with appropriate care such as holiday dog care. That said, many pets, especially some dogs, seem to cope really well with travel and to enjoy visiting new places abroad with their owners. It comes down to owners knowing their pets best and making a decision based on all of these factors.

Pet Passport

If you’re travelling abroad with a pet then you will need to organise a pet passport in advance of travel. How long the process of fulfilling all requirements actually takes does depend on where you are travelling to and from, as there is no one standard list of regulations adhered to by all nations, but details of requirements for entering or returning to the UK can be found here. It’s wise to start the process several months before you travel to ensure that the various parts can be completed in the necessary timeframe.

The cost of fulfilling the criteria for a pet passport usually works out at around £200 per pet, and the passport is valid for as long as the vaccinations are kept up to date.

In addition to the passport, there are a number of other things to prepare for when you’re travelling with a dog.

Extra protection

The pet passport helps ensure that your dog won’t bring rabies back to the UK, but many other countries have a variety of other diseases and risks which could be dangerous to your pet. It’s advisable that you speak to your vet about the country or countries you are visiting to find out what additional steps you can take to protect your dog whilst away from home.

Pet insurance abroad

You may have pet insurance for your dog in the UK, but you will need to check with your insurance provider whether this includes travel outside of the country. Most insurers can extend their coverage to include some other countries, so contacting them before you book anything is essential to make sure your pet can be covered whilst travelling with you. Gocompare research found that 33% of policies do not cover vet bills abroad.

Comfort in transit

Depending on the type of transport, your pet may be in a carrier and unable to take toilet breaks or stretch its legs for long periods of time. Speak to the airline or travel company about when your pet will be able to take rest breaks or some time out of their carrier at either end of the journey.

If you are travelling with your dog in a car, taking regular loo stops every couple of hours can make all the difference to your pet’s comfort. Ensuring that your dog has adequate water and a comfortable place to sleep whilst travelling will help to reduce anxiety. It is always advised to use a dog crate for extra protection and comfort.

The temperature differences in your destination country could be quite different to what your pet is used to, so ensure that you’re prepared for warmer or colder weather by making provisions for your dog. For example, provide somewhere shaded and cool for your dog to rest in the hottest hours of the day or take a coat and warm bedding to help keep your pooch cosy in colder climates.


Whilst many pet owners enjoy trying out local cuisine when on holiday, for pets this can be quite problematic, and result in upset tummies, sickness or diarrhea – which is no fun for anyone! Ensuring that you take an adequate amount of your pets’ usual diet away with you is important in case it isn’t available locally once you get there, and keeping to the usual feeding routine will also help your dog to acclimatise to the new surroundings more easily.

Feeding slightly less in the mealtimes before travelling should help to minimise any accidents and ensuring fresh water is always available should also help your pet feel happier.

Coming home

If you’re travelling with a dog, a requirement before re-entering the UK is that your pet receives treatment for tapeworms by a local vet between 1-5 days before your return. This means that you’ll need to source a local vet who is able to provide this medication and document the treatment in the pet passport. Failure to complete this requirement will result in your dog either being placed in expensive and stressful quarantine once you reach the UK or even being sent back to the country you have just left. It’s therefore vital to check and double check that all necessary paperwork is complete before you return.

Taking your pet abroad can be really rewarding, and lots of dogs really seem to enjoy it as much as their owners. A bit of planning and preparation can make all the difference and help ensure that it’s a relaxing time for everyone!

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