The “ruff” guide to holidays with your dog

There was a time when taking Fido on holiday abroad was unheard of due to our strict quarantine laws. But in 2000 the launch of the Pet Travel Scheme (often referred to as Pet Passports or PETS) meant it is now possible to include the most important member of the family in your travel plans – not to mention opening up the opportunities for travellers with assistance dogs.

The first port of call when organising a pet passport should be your vet, who will be familiar with the process. If you have an assistance dog, contact the organisation who provided it as they may also be able to help. Discuss your travel plans with the vet, as Fido will be exposed to different parasites and diseases in some countries.

Fido will first need to be microchipped if he isn’t already, then he will need a rabies jab. A month after this, he will need a blood test to check that the jab worked and then he will need to remain in the UK for a further 6 months. If all goes well, the pet passport will be issued. The total cost per dog is between £120-£160 and you should allow at least eight months for the whole process. If that sounds daunting, bear in mind that this is a one-off process and kennel fees for a fortnight can be upwards of £200 (and Fido will probably much prefer the holiday!).

Broadly speaking, airline rules on carrying pets – even assistance dogs – are still pretty restrictive and are not really worth the hassle for a holiday. Self drive holidays are a better option. Most major ferry companies and the Eurotunnel will carry dogs for a small fee. Unfortunately, Fido will probably have to stay in the car for the crossing so choose a short route where possible. Some of the companies which operate longer routes are introducing on-board kennels and may allow dogs in cabins so check with your operator. It is also important to inform your Breakdown Cover provider prior to your holiday that you are taking a dog to ensure that he is included as a passenger should you need to use their recovery service while away.

In order to make the trip as pleasant as possible for Fido, stop every two hours to give him an opportunity to exercise and relieve himself, and make sure he has constant access to water. If he’s a fussy eater or has a special diet, make sure you bring plenty of his food.

A very important thing to mention is ticks, which are rife on the continent (particularly France) and can make your dog extremely sick. Check Fido every day for ticks and go straight to a vet if you find any (don’t try and pull them off).

Ticks are also important from the point of view of your return journey – you will need to visit a vet between 24 and 48 hours before going home to certify that Fido is free of ticks and tapeworms. Check that the vet stamps the pet passport, as this stamp is needed at customs to re-enter the UK.

This blog is only designed as a rough (or should that be “ruff”?) guide to what is involved in taking pets abroad and legislation is likely to change regularly. Further information can be obtained from DEFRA (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs) and from the BBC who have an excellent article on the scheme.

If you are holidaying in the UK, the website http://www.dogpeople.co.uk/ has suggestions for dog-friendly accommodation and days out with your best friend.

Make sure Fido is insured for the trip too. Generally speaking, travelling pets are covered for their holiday under pet insurance (inform your provider of your plans at least two weeks before you go). The cover offered by 24/7 Pet Insurance for vet fees and third party liability also applies abroad (although any veterinary fees incurred outside the UK will need to be settled by the policyholder and reclaimed later)**.

Of course, you wouldn’t go on holiday without making sure you have travel insurance for yourself too so don’t overlook this! 24/7 travel insurance offers cover for a week on the continent from just £6.99* and cover can be arranged online in just a few clicks.

*Premium £6.99 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip policy for 7 days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change. Please note that 24/7 travel insurance is unable to offer cover for any liability, injury, loss or damage arising directly or indirectly from or due to any animals belonging to you or in your care, custody or control.

** Subject to terms, conditions and exclusion that apply to the policy.

Information in this article sourced from the links above and from Holiday Which? January 2008