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Advice on taking your pet abroad

Everything you need to know about taking your pet abroad

From where to go to what to bring, this guide will help you with everything you need to know to make taking your pet abroad a walk in the park.

All our advice is taken from RSPCA guidance on good welfare practice on ferry crossings as well as from recommendations from our customers.

Deciding when best to travel

The safety and wellbeing of your pet is the most important thing to consider when travelling. Choose a sailing time which is best suited to your pet's needs. For example, some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others and so it is best to avoid travelling on hot days. The best time of day would therefore be overnight or first thing in the morning when the temperature is cooler.

Dogs which are more susceptible to overheating tend to be very old or young, have thick, heavy coats or have very short flat faces - such as pugs and bulldogs. Dogs with certain medical conditions or on some types of medication are also more at risk.

We strongly recommend you visit your vet before travelling to get a pet health check to ensure your pet is fit to travel -especially if your dog is one which is more prone to heatstroke.

Choosing where to go

When choosing your holiday destination, be sure to locate a good vet in the area who will be able to arrange a consultation for the necessary treatments on whichever day you wish to return back to the UK. Vet contact details near our ports can be found here.

Make sure the local area is safe for your pet. Think about snakes and other creatures which may be of danger to your pet, and also the local hunting seasons.

Some beaches in France are out of bounds for dogs. Check which ones you'll be able to visit with them.

Preparing for your journey

Follow and keep up to date with DEFRA guidelines. More information can be found on our PETS Travel Scheme compliance checklist page.

Allow at least 1 month before travel to start the PETS Travel Scheme process. Don't forget to visit the vet to organise booster vaccinations in time.

Make sure your pet is happy to travel in your car, potentially for long periods and in hot conditions - especially if you are travelling in the summer.

If your pet has to stay in the car during the crossing, make sure you leave them plenty of space along with food, water and some toys!

Don't give your pet too much to eat or drink before the ferry sails and allow adequate time to enable them to exercise, go to the toilet and settle down before boarding.

Bear in mind that, unless you have booked a pet-friendly cabin, your pet will spend most of their time at sea by themself. The car deck is closed and remains locked once the ship has sailed. You therefore need to prepare in such a way which ensures your pet is comfortable and happy during the journey.

In some circumstances however, it is possible to arrange to visit your pet mid-voyage. To visit your pet during the sailing you will need to be escorted by a crew member. Please ask at the Information Desk on board to arrange a time to visit.

If you are leaving your dog in your vehicle rather than in a kennel, make sure there is enough ventilation for your pet. Creating a flow of fresh air can be helped by opening both the driver and passenger front windows. Take care to ensure that your dog cannot escape from their carrier or your vehicle. It's well worth bringing window grilles with you to help with ventilation and preventing escape.

Your pet will need plenty of space during the journey and when left in the vehicle. Whether unconfined or in a crate he or she will need to be able to sit and stand up at full height, turn around easily and lie down in a natural position, and must not be able to escape.

Watch our video about travelling with your pet

Bringing essentials

Purchase a tag for your dog's collar which clearly shows your telephone contact details, including your international dialling code.

Make sure your dog is familiar with their muzzle. All dogs must be muzzled while being checked at our ports, during the short transfer between your car and the kennels, or pet friendly cabin, on embarkation and disembarkation and whilst being exercised.

Whether your pet is staying in the car or in a kennel, take some absorbent bedding to help them feel comfortable. Don't forget to bring nappy sacks and tissue in case of any accidents during the journey.

Having familiar items near your pet can help make them feel more comfortable, so remember to bring their favourite toys.

Your pet will need access to water throughout the journey. Spill safe containers can be attached to the side of a travelling crate or left on the floor of the vehicle.

Make sure your pet's water container is full with clean fresh water and accessible to them throughout the ferry crossing.

Arriving in France or Spain

Once you have left the ferry, find somewhere safe to pull over and get your dog out of the car. This will allow you to check them over and gives an opportunity for them to go to the toilet and stretch their legs.

The vets can often get quite full, so book your vet appointment as soon as you can for your return journey. Check the opening times of the vet local to your stay as soon as you arrive.

Returning to the UK

Many vets are closed on Sunday and Monday - remember this when complying with the "between 24 and 120 hours" rule for tapeworm treatment for dogs. Also remember to check if it is a bank holiday in the country you are visiting when you want to return as this will affect the opening times of vets.

Always check the date and signature on your pet's passport before you leave the vet's surgery. At our French ports, you may need to take your pet into the terminal building to get your pet scanned so allow adequate time