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Traveling to Europe with a Dog

Traveling to Europe with a Dog

Despite the airlines’ best efforts to dissuade pet travel, more and more dog parents are considering bringing along their pets on their travels to Europe. Given the popularity of the continent and the relative proximity to North America, it’s a fairly easy international trip to make with your furry friend in tow. 

Traveling with your pet to Europe isn’t all that complicated, however it does require some advanced planning and requirements differ among countries that are within the EU opposed to those that are not.

For the sake of simplicity, this post will focus on the pet entry requirements for the European Union. We will note exceptions for travel to the UK and other similar countries that have different or more strict mandates for dogs and cats.

What do I Need to Travel with my Dog to Europe?

ISO Microchip

Europe operates on a different frequency from the United States, so you will likely need to implant a second one in your dog. Only the veterinarian who implants the microchip can sign the required microchip implementation form. 

While it is possible to bring your own scanner, we had one friend who did, but it required extra paperwork and hassle at customs. Save yourself the delay and just get a second microchip. This way, if your dog is lost during your trip a veterinarian can scan the chip.  

One-year Rabies Vaccination

This must occur AFTER the ISO Microchip implant. The rabies and the microchip can be done in the same day, but the vaccination has to come second. Both must be administered at least 21 days prior to departure. 

While some countries will take the 3-year rabies vaccination, however, the initial shot after the microchip has to be a one-year vaccination. Booster shots may be the three-year injection. 

International Health Certificate from Your Veterinarian

Ten days before departing for the EU, visit your local veterinarian for an international health certificate and an EU veterinary certificate. You have 10 days to enter the destination country after you have completed the paperwork. Plan accordingly and consider travel snafus like delayed or missed flights. 

Official Pet Export Paperwork

Make an appointment with the USDA (or your local governmental agency responsible for pet export. The international health certificate, the EU veterinary certificate, and the microchip implementation form must be endorsed by a USDA APHIS. This is the government office responsible for approving your export request and stamping your forms. 

You can choose to schedule an appointment with the nearest location or overnight the paperwork. Schedule early because appointments can fill fast. Visiting is always the safest option. Note that the fee for endorsement may only be paid by check or money order.

Traveling outside of the EU?

Norway, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom require an echinococcosis (tapeworm) treatment given a minimum of 24 and a maximum of 120 hours before arrival. The paperwork mentioned above remains the same. 

The treatment required approval from the USDA accredited veterinarian. Be sure to ask your local vet write the date and time in both your current timezone, and the one to which you’re traveling on the export paperwork. With a nine hour time difference, this can affect meeting the requirements for inoculation. Always double check your country of destination that may not be listed here. The rules can change. 

Our post on entering the UK with a pet should help cover the exceptions and additional requirements, but always, always check before making assumptions.

Entering the Destination Country by Air

If you’re flying with your pet, check to see if the destination requires that you call customs. Not every EU country requires meeting with customs upon arrival, however some countries do. They generally ask for a 24 hour notice.

When we went through customs in Norway, we had to enter the “goods to declare” section. There, we met the customs veterinarian who overlooked Sora’s paperwork, scanned for her microchip, stamped a few items, and sent us on our way.

In Spain, we entered as we would, whether we had a dog or not.

Sora was an ESA, and flew with us in the cabin. We imagine the same scenario would play out for those traveling with a small dog in cabin as well. Again, this depends entirely on the destination country.

For those flying with their dog as cargo, you may be required to show your paperwork at the agricultural office located in the airport. Not all airports accept international pet transport, so check that your destination does before booking any flights.

Once you’re in the EU, you can travel freely between countries with no hassle. Just remember, this is not the case for the exemptions mentioned earlier!

Getting a Pet Passport

You’ll want to get a pet passport if you plan to travel back and forth between Europe and the US or if you plan to stay long term. Once you enter Europe, you have four months to obtain a pet passport if you plan on staying there. 

The process is very simple and straightforward if you do your homework in advance. Bring all of your paperwork to a local veterinarian and ask for a Pet Passport. They’ll know what to do.

Crossing Borders in the European Union (EU)

The Schengen zone was created by the EU to enable people to have smooth borderless travel. When traveling with a rental car, bus, or train, you will not have to stop at each border. However, it is a good idea to always bring along the pet passport. 

It’s worth noting that due to political conflict, some countries have implemented random border checks. We saw this first hand coming from France to Spain, where the French were randomly checking vehicles. Always have your paperwork ready to go in case you need it.

Generally speaking, it’s very rare to need to show documentation at any point once inside the EU.

Not all in the Schengen Zone are in the EU! Not all non-EU countries are part of the Schengen Zone. It’s very confusing, so we’ll say it one final time. Do your homework and know the requirements of the countries you plan to visit!

Related Reading

How to Fly Internationally with a Dog
Is it Safe to Fly with a Dog?
Best Dog Kennels for Flying
14 Questions to Ask before Flying with a Large Dog
Flying with a Dog in Cargo Gear List


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Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

Thank you Dave for this excellent article (and for the fun Instagram posts). Wrestling the paperwork/bureaucracy is your true strengths. We are moving to Valencia, Spain with our 2 dogs and all your research, tips and how-to's are invaluable! I understand that you and Jen fly with your dogs back to the US often. We live in Northern California and were wondering what flight path you take to Spain (from Oregon?). It's been the bane of my existence lately to figure out how to get the dogs to Europe. We have a 65-lb pointer and 110-lb pyrenees mix. I'm assuming there would need to be a stopover but I'm not sure where. Also not sure where to start flying... SFO? YVR? further east? Any advice would be gold!

Dave Hoch

Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

Hi Karen,

Thanks for the compliment. I assume your dogs are flying cargo, based on the your pyrenees being 110lbs! We have connected in JFK as there are direct flights from JFK to Madrid (and probably Valencia or Barcelona). So, I'm thinking you could do SFO > JFK > BARC. Now, be careful of the weather and the timing of your flight as it can get hot on the runway. Do you know when you're planning to fly? I did check and Iberia has direct flights from SFO to Barcelona that are 11hrs 25 minutes. A red-eye leaving in the evening may not be such a bad idea as the dogs would end up spending less time in the kennel. I think it really depends on your flight time, how they dogs are flying, and the airline (I don't know Iberia's record for flying). Keep in mind with the big one, you'll want the largest kennel you can find if using cargo. Let me know how I can help!