Advice on taking your pet abroad

From preparing to what to bring to what you need to before returning to the UK, this guide will help you with what need to know to make taking your pet abroad a walk in the park.

 

Before you go

When's best for my pet to travel?

The safety and well-being of your pet is the most important thing to consider when travelling. So you should choose a sailing time which is suited to your pet's needs.

For example, some dogs are more prone to heatstroke so it's best to avoid travelling on hot days. If your dog is susceptible to overheating, such as pugs and bulldogs or breeds with very thick coats, then travel overnight or first thing in the morning when the temperature is cooler.

Dogs with certain medical conditions or on some types of medication are also more at risk. We strongly recommend you get your vet to perform a health check before travelling to ensure your pet is fit to travel.

Choosing your destination

Wherever you go, ensure it's safe for your pet. If you're staying in a rural area, check the local hunting seasons and be mindful of snakes and other creatures. Some French beaches are out of bounds for dogs so you'll need to check which ones you can visit with them. 

You should always have a tag on your pet's collar with your telephone number on it that includes your international dialing code.

And most importantly, make sure you locate a good vet to administer the tapeworm treatment for your dog before your return to the UK. We have a list of vets near our ports that we recommend. 

Pet passport or third country certificate

Follow the instructions on our pet travel scheme page. Allow between 1 and 4 months before travel to start the Pet Travel Scheme process dependent on documentation type and don't forget to visit the vet to organise booster vaccinations in time.

Further information can be found on the GOV.UK website 

Essentials to bring

These are some of the most essential items you should bring for your pet to make their journey more comfortable.

  • A muzzle for dogs - they must be muzzled when outside of your vehicle
  • Absorbent bedding for your car or the kennel
  • Nappy sacks and tissues in case of accidents
  • Some of their favourite toys to help make them comfortable
  • Water in a spill-safe container that can be attached to a travelling crate or left on the floor of your vehicle

Make sure your pet's water container is filled with clean, fresh water and that they can reach it throughout the sailing.

Preparing for your journey

Pet passport or third country certificate

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

Allow between 1 and 4 months before travel to start the Pet Travel Scheme process. Don't forget to visit the vet to organise booster vaccinations in time.

Getting your pet ready for travel

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.

During the crossing

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.

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.