As those of you who follow our social media channels might have seen, we recently took our first family holiday overseas since the pandemic - and more pertinently it was Noah’s first experience of the world outside the UK! As first time pet travellers, we had a little work to do beforehand and it seems a useful opportunity to share our experiences and some top tips for those of you contemplating a trip to Europe.
Naturally, when a nation decides to leave the incredibly connected customs/trading union in which it has spent many successful decades there are some new challenges compared to the previously relatively straightforward process - we’re no fans of Brexit around here, but I’ll save the further expansion on that for another medium. What it means in practical terms is that the United Kingdom is now a “3rd country” - perhaps that’s what “sovereignty” was all about! As such travellers from the UK are now required to present an Animal Health Certificate, which has replaced the previous Pet Passport scheme. This is required for the entire EU, and thanks to the oven ready deal those leaving mainland Great Britain to Northern Ireland will also require one. Once obtained the certificate is valid for 10 days for entry to EU or Northern Ireland, then for 4 months for onward travel throughout the EU and the same period for re-entry to Great Britain. So here is tip 1 - make sure you plan well in advance and secure the necessary time with your vet in the correct window.
As per your own travel insurance, we always recommend insuring your pet - and checking with your insurer in advance will make sure you’ve got the cover you need should you need to seek veterinary attention on your trip.
In terms of medical requirements the principal steps are ensuring there is a readable microchip which conforms to International Standards Organisation standards ISO 11784 and ISO 11785, your vet can check this ahead of time (usually as part of the AHC checks), and if necessary can “rechip” your dog should the chip be unreadable or inconsistently readable. Keep a note of the chip number as you’ll need this for the transport provider (and it’s something useful to have on hand anyway). The pet also needs to be vaccinated against rabies not less than 21 days before travelling, and must be at least 12 weeks old in order to be vaccinated for rabies. You will also need a tapeworm treatment - if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta or Norway this will need to be prior to travel, and not less than 24 hours or more than 120 hours before your time of arrival. You’ll also need to make arrangements to do this before re-entering the UK (again between 24-120 hours before arriving). The treatment given must be approved for use in the country in which it is given, with proven efficacy against tapeworm - Echinoccus multilocularis, usually products containing praziquantel (such as Drontal) will be used. The local vet will have to add their details to the certificate upon treating your dog. Tip 2 is to make sure you plan ahead for this -depending on where and when you are travelling it might be best to find a vet in advance and book an appointment (especially if you’re only spending a week or less overseas).
Modes of travel will vary, some of you might wish to fly out to your destination, in which case it’s worth checking with airlines regarding pet policies - in some cases pets can travel in the cabin albeit you’ll be expected to pay for their seat, in others they’ll have to be transported in a crate in the hold. Ferries may have pet friendly cabins, or if not you may be expected to leave your dog inside your vehicle for the crossing. They will be expected to be muzzled when outside the car and you may also need to use nappy sacks to prevent soiling on board. We travelled vie the Channel Tunnel - I would happily recommend this experience to anyone looking to take their dog across to the Continent. Both the Folkestone and Calais terminals have exercise areas with astroturf where you can give your pup chance to stretch their legs and answer the call of nature, there’s also a good chance they can meet new friends and have a play before boarding the train. Check-in is well set up at both ends and travelling with your dog doesn’t add a huge amount of time to the process (we travelled during the school February half term just as the UK was coming out of travel restrictions so the crossings were full but total check-in times were both pretty short). The crossing is short at just 35 minutes, and all passengers remain together in the vehicle which should mean less stress for all, each to their own but in our case Noah got an unusual chance to climb up on my lap and experience the driver’s seat!
From a pet food purveyor’s perspective, Brexit has brought a host of challenges - in this context the main one of relevance is that we are no longer allowed to take meat- or dairy- based products on crossings, so not only will you have to forego a ham sandwich for the road, you’ll also have to find an alternative supply to your favourite kibble (unless your pet is on a prescribed diet as indicated by your vet on the AHC). Given that all of our products are grain free, it’s sensible to find something similar once you cross, depending on the timing and duration of the journey give the dog a meal before leaving - a well fed, healthy dog will be fine if they go a few extra hours between meals so don’t worry too much about this - once they get their next feed they’ll be absolutely fine and will undergo minimal duress. In terms of suppliers, most towns will have at least one independent pet shop and/or vet who can help and much like the UK there are major chains including Maxi Zoo which operate across Europe offering similar enough products to keep your pup fed until they get back to their bowls of whole.
Depending on where and when you’re travelling, some precautions should help keep your pet safe and comfortable - in summer southern and central European temperatures can soar, as such it is well worth planning ahead to avoid the risk of heat stroke. If your dog needs plenty of exercise then doing so early and late in the day will avoid the hottest temperatures, and if you are out and about in the daytime definitely take a collapsible bowl or similar with plenty of fresh water to keep your pet hydrated, and if you’re spending long hours outside make sure you either carry or find shade in order to let them shelter from too much sun. If your dog is a strong swimmer there might be some good opportunities to cool off albeit prime beaches aren’t always open to dogs in high season. Many European countries have a very relaxed and welcoming attitude to dogs and in most cases they will be welcome to join you in enjoying a restaurant or bar.
Other watch outs - and refer to local guides if you can find them, would be to check for the presence of venomous snakes in some areas (we have adders in the UK but there are a few additional species in some of the Mediterranean countries); ticks can be a concern albeit there are a number of parasiticides which will offer protection against them alongside fleas (again - this is something we have in the UK, and we use a combo treatment for Noah); wild boar and bears are present in some regions and as per anywhere else dogs must be controlled on or around livestock farmland.
Overall though, using common sense and good pet parenting practice will allow you and your pup to have a great time in a new environment - giving you both a well earned break from routine and chance to explore somewhere new.
For more information on the Animal Health Certificate, speak to your vet and check this link: