What you need to know to go on holiday abroad with your dog

Are you planning a holiday abroad with your dog? I wrote this article to provide you a guide with some essential information to plan your holiday. I hope this can help. First of all, your pet, like every citizen of the European Union, must have a passport.

The passport
The European passport for pets is issued by the Veterinary agency of the Local Health Centres when:

  • the animal has a microchip or a readable tattoo done before 2011;
  • has been registered in the Canine Registry;
  • the dog was given an anti-rabies vaccination (not before the application of the microchip) or it has a valid vaccination. 

The passport will contain all data relating to the animal and his owner as well as information about the pet's health (vaccinations, any carried out pesticide treatments, etc.).

Rabies vaccination

Rabies is a viral disease affecting wild and domestic animals which can be trasmitted to human (zoonoses) and to other animals throught infected saliva, bites, scratches and wounds.

From an epidemiological point of view, the dog, in the urban cycle, and the fox, in the sylvan cycle, are the animals who are the most affected by rabies. This disease causes acute encephalitis and, when the symptoms are manifest, the outcome is always fatal both for animals and humans. Rabies is throughout the world, but 95% of deaths occurs in Asia and Africa. In Italy, between 1997 and 2008, the rabies was considered eradicated but in 2008 some cases were identified again in the north-east of the country, referable to the sylvan form, occuring in the nearby Slovenia.

Prevention in pets is carried out by vaccination, which consists of an injection giving one year immunity and perfomed by a veterinarian. Rabies vaccination cannot be carried out on pets younger than 12 weeks old. So, depending on the travel situation, it is advisable to check the rules to follow. 
For the ones travelling to Italy, for example, no exception is allowed.

With the word "valid vaccination", instead, it is meant a vaccination carried out at least 21 days before the pets arrival to the destination country, or with an outstanding recall.

Since diseases do not have boundaries and in certain areas some of them, including rabies, have been eradicated or do not exist, it is important to know that there may be stricter rules to respect. Some countries as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Malta require additional measures for pets entering from some countries where the disease has a non-negligible risk, like a certificate on antibody titration, which guarantees 100% vaccination coverage and the quarantine. Titration has to be performed on a blood sample taken at least 30 days after vaccination and analyzed in a laboratory which is recognized by the European Commission in accordance with Article 3 of the Act 2000/258/CE. 
(Ref: Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie : titer rabies antibody )

Sometimes this certificate takes a long time to be issued and, if you are planning a particular trip to foreign countries, I suggest you to collect some information even 5 months before the leaving in order to avoid unpleasant surprises, like leaving your beloved friend at home or giving the desired trip up.

Necessary documents

If your trip is to a EU country, your pet will need:

  •  European passport
  •  Certificate of good health issued by a veterinarian
  •  Valid anti-rabies vaccination. 

If your trip is to an EXTRA EU country, in addition to the documents listed above, you may be asked for specific health requirements and additional documents depending on the destination and specific conditions, so it is always better to consult the embassy of the country of destination in Italy, the veterinary agency of the Local Health Centres or the Ministry of Health website.

An example is the preventive antiparasitic treatment for the Echinococcus Multilocularis, which is required for trips to Finland, Malta, United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway. This treatment must be administered by a veterinarian between 24 and 120 hours before departure and certified on the passport.

Two other important tips concern: 

• INSURANCE, in case you do not have it yet, consider to underwrite a policy for your dog, which covers civil liability and veterinary expenses, as in some countries they could be rather onerous

• the obligation to have an IDENTIFICATION TAG as provided, for example, in public places in the United Kingdom and in other countries, showing the address and telephone details of the pet's owner.

Some countries have very strict laws, which may even include quarantine periods, which can separate you from your dog for long periods of time. Information is essential!

And remember that the maximum number of animals that you can carry is 5!

Which means of transport?

You will also need to evaluate the vehicle you will travel on.

• If you choose the plane, it will be necessary to contact the airline, some low cost airlines, for example, provide only the transport of guide animals following the owner. The general rule is that medium and large size dogs are placed in appropriate, waterproof and comfortable doghouses, placed in the pressurized hold. Since these seats are limited, it is important to book well in advance.
Small size dogs (weighing up to 10 kg) will be able to travel close to the owner, even if inside their homologated carrier.
If the flight includes a stopover, take some information on eventual rule to respect.

• If you choose the train, there is instead a handbook of good behavioral standards to follow, but in general dogs can travel with their owners, inside a carrier, equipped with a document, microchip, valid vaccinations and antiparasitic treatments.

 • If you choose the ferry, you have to follow the same rules as the plane, where the animal can travel in the common carrier if it has the allowed characteristics which protect the animal. But getting information from the line is always the best solution to avoid unpleasant surprises.

• If you travel by car, you have to be in compliance with Art. 169 of the new Traffic Code "Transport of people, animals and objects on motor vehicles" that, at point 6, prohibits the transport of pets that constitute obstacle or danger to driving. It allows the transport of pets, even more than 1, only if kept in a special cage, container or in the rear compartment, provided that it is specially divided by a network or other similar suitable means that, if installed permanently, must be authorized by the competent provincial office of the General Directorate of the MCTC. In case the trip is long, it will be necessary to plan very well the stages, to let your four-legged friend drink, eat and do his business. I strongly reccomend to pay attention to heat!

Guide dogs can always travel near the owner, provided that they have a leash and a muzzle. Based on the selected transport means, please ascertain well in advance that your friend does not suffer from car, airplane, ferry sickness...in this case you can ask vet for some pharmacological advice or some precaution to take (such as pausing, giving food at the right times) which will make the travelling more comfortable.

At last but not least, remember any drug your pet usually uses, it could be difficult to find them, especially in certain countries.

I hope you found this information clear and useful ... see you next time and enjoy your holiday!


Eleonora Bosoni

Dr. in Veterinary Medicine



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