The only thing more stressful than making a move with your family from the USA to Europe is moving internationally with pets!
Arranging the shipping of your furniture, clothing and personal effects is one thing, but ensuring that your beloved best friend makes the journey with you safely is hugely important. Then of course, once you arrive, there are many lifestyle changes to adjust to.
How will you get your dog from the States to Europe? Are there any legal blocks that prevent you and your canine companion from starting a new life? Will your pooch start wearing berets and string of onions around their neck, and begin barking in an exotic accent? All of these questions and more will be answered in this guide to moving from America to Europe with a dog.
Table of Contents:
Pet Vaccination Requirements Before Travel
First thing’s first – before you even consider attempting to bring your pet into Europe, you’re going to have to ensure that your dog has been microchipped. Virtually no countries in Europe will allow a dog to enter their borders unless they can be traced and their owners contacted in the event of an incident or emergency.
Other than microchipping, the requirements differ from country to country throughout Europe.
As a general rule, however, consider undergoing the following precautions that are largely universal:
- You must be able to provide a valid rabies vaccination certificate and a blood test that proves that your dog is all clear of any infection. This blood test must have been taken at least three weeks before your travel date.
- You must provide proof that your dog is free of any tapeworm infestations.
- You’ll also need to get a wide number of forms filled in, some of them originating from the US and others from your destination.
If you’re in any doubt whatsoever, however, contact both your vet and the embassy of the country that you are traveling to. As we have stated, the requirements of gaining access to many different countries differ depending on your destination. You should also attempt to get your dog a pet passport, as this will make life considerably easier for you.
Is a European Pet Passport for My Dog Different to an American One?
Yes, ‘Pet Passport’ means a completely different thing in Europe to the USA. In Europe, domestic animals are granted passports akin to those of their human owners. These entitle dogs to travel all over the world as long as they can prove that their rabies shots are up to date. And they’re accompanied by a human owner, naturally. Rover T. Hound can’t check into the first class lounge of a major airport and order a martini of his own accord.
An American Pet Passport, meanwhile, is just another piece of paperwork. We really can’t stress this enough – find out precisely what documents you need for different nations! Germany, for example, is considerably more stringent than Ireland. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches at border control if you do your paperwork in advance.
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Pet Passport for My Dog?
The short answer is a possible quarantine for up to four months! This will be hellacious for both you and your dog, so don’t take any chances. This nightmare will easily be avoided if you’re organized enough to get your paperwork in order before setting foot on European soil.
Pet Quarantine Requirements by Country
Quarantine can be a pretty scary prospect, so let’s try to demystify the whole process.
Firstly, quarantine revolves almost entirely around managing the risk of rabies. Countries of the world are divided into three categories as far as quarantine is concerned:
- Rabies-Free Countries
- Rabies-Controlled Countries
- High-Rabies Countries
The USA is deemed to be a Rabies-Controlled Country, as are most territories in Europe (the European Union refuses to grant any country Rabies-Free Status).
The rules for bringing a pet into a Rabies-Controlled Country from a territory with the same status are what we have already discussed. Ensure that your paperwork is in order, and you’ll have nothing to worry about concerning quarantine. However, note that you will need to have been a resident of the country for a minimum of six months – discuss what this means with the embassy of the countries that you are visiting if you plan to take advantage of those close borders and hop from nation to nation once you’re in Europe.
The only time that you will likely run into resistance is if you enter a High-Rabies Country with a view to returning to a Rabies-Controlled Country afterward. This will probably involve jumping through a few extra hoops, including potentially taking Fido for many blood tests.
For the avoidance of doubt, nations of Europe that are deemed to be High-Rabies Countries are:
- San Marino
Don’t panic, entering these countries doesn’t exclude you from ever returning to the USA, or traveling further through Europe. You may have to be a little more through about your preparations before you can do so, and display a little patience.
How Do I Get a Pet Passport for My Dog?
Several months before you set off on your journey, tick off every single item on this checklist. Remember that these are just general rules about what you should be looking at doing. Every country is different, and you will achieve nothing by cutting corners throughout this process!
- Several months before you leave – ideally at least six – inform your vet that you are relocating, and tell them which country you’re moving to. They should be able to find out what paperwork is required.
- Gain all relevant documentation from your vet, confirming that your dog has a clean bill of health and is suitably vaccinated against any particular concerns for the country that you’re looking to enter.
- Once you have these documents, submit them to the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Office for final rubber-stamping.
- Check back in with your vet and the embassy of the country that you’re traveling to, and ensure that everything is in order.
- If you’re planning to fly with Fido, call the airline and discuss the options. We’ll list out many international airlines that will allow your dog to fly with you in a moment, but there are all kinds of different restrictions that may be applied.
Traveling to Europe by Airplane with a Dog
Once you have confirmed that your airline of choice allows Fido to travel through the skies, you can start planning for the journey itself. You’ll need an airline pet carrier for dogs and an understanding of how your dog’s ears will respond to altitude.
Firstly, it might benefit you to visit the airport ahead of time and get the lay of the land. If you’re traveling alone with your dog, you’re going to have to handle them, and their needs – including bathroom breaks – while also going through all the usual security checks associated with flying. It may also benefit you to expose your canine to all the hustle and bustle of an airport in small, controlled doses before the additional stress of the flight comes into the equation!
Try not to feed your dog for at least a couple of hours before they get onto a flight as you won’t want them to need to empty their bowels while you’re in midair, and ensure that Fido takes a pee before you get aboard. Pretty much every airport will have somewhere for your dog to have a comfort break. Bear in mind that traveling by plane can be pretty terrifying for your dog too, so cut them a break if they have a little accident during the trip. Line their crate with puppy pads to be on the safe side, and follow our guide on how to clean a soft-sided pet carrier when you land.
What Airlines Allow Pets in Cabin on International Flights?
Moving overseas with dogs comes with a great many questions. Perhaps the first and most important thing that you’ll need to know before taking a dog on a flight is whether your airline of choice will allow them to board– and, if so if they can ride in the main cabin of the airplane within their pet carrier.
Here is a selection of major airlines that do welcome furry flyers as a general policy, but always check before making a reservation. Sometimes the number of spaces available for dogs is very limited, and there may be another reason why Fido is not permitted to fly such as an allergic captain or VIP passenger. Different airlines will also have varying weight restrictions and upper or lower age restrictions.
If your dog is a small or toy breed that can be safely and comfortably contained in a pet carrier compact enough to slide under your seat, the following carriers will typically allow them to remain in the cabin on a transatlantic flight from the USA to Europe:
- Air France
Remember that your pet carrier will count as your hand luggage and that you will be responsible for making your pet as comfortable as possible throughout their journey. Your dog won’t be able to leave their carrier throughout the flight unless they are registered as a support animal such as a Seeing Eye Dog, so make sure that your pet has plenty of blankets, water, toys and anything else that may keep them distracted while you’re in the air. Offer your dog a frequent clean using wet wipes, too; this will cool your canine off, and
Other major airlines that have different rules include:
- American Airlines (Dogs in Carriers are Allowed on Domestic Flights)
- British Airways (Dogs Must Travel in the Cargo Hold)
- Emirates (Dogs Must Travel in the Cargo Hold)
- Qantas (Dogs Must Travel in the Cargo Hold)
- Qantas (Virgin Must Travel in the Cargo Hold)
Just remember, these are guidelines only. Always speak to an agent at your airline of choice before arriving at the plane expecting to board with your dog in tow.
What Does it Mean if My Dog Has to Travel in the Cargo Hold?
As you will see above, some airlines insist on dogs traveling in the cargo hold alongside checked baggage. This means that your dog will be alone throughout the journey, and you’ll have to ensure that they have plenty of water and entertainment.
This approach won’t work for every dog or owner. If you rarely spend time away from your dog, you are going to need to learn how to break separation anxiety quickly otherwise this whole experience will be truly horrifying for all concerned.
If you are prepared to let your dog travel in the cargo hold of an airplane, ensure that they’re in a pet carrier large enough to stand up and move around in (without posing any risk to your dog’s health if they end up sliding around!), and have enough soft blankets to make themselves comfortable.
Traveling to Europe by Boat with a Dog
Traveling by boat is, in theory, less intrusive for your dog than taking an airplane. There is no higher altitude to deal with, for a start! Unfortunately, this is where the advantages end.
The simple fact is, traveling from America to Europe by boat takes a long time, and your dog will have to spend a long time locked up in their carrier throughout this.
Check with individual providers of the overseas service, as they may have a deck for walking canines that will allow you to exercise Fido from time to time, but in many cases, your dog will have to be cooped up, potentially alone, for vast periods of time.
Do Dogs Get Seasick?
Yes, they most certainly do. If your dog is prone to motion sickness, they will struggle to negotiate the high seas. For more information on such a problem, check out our guide to pet travel sickness – and how it can be prevented.
Keeping a Dog Calm During Travel
If you’re looking to keep a dog calm while they’re traveling, don’t immediately assume that you’re going to have to get a job lot of tranquilizers from the vet. There are ways that you can attempt to keep your dog sedate within their carrier, even if you’re not there to comfort them.
Try any of the following:
- Line your dog’s carrier with comforting smells, such as beloved blankets and shirts that you sleep in.
- Use naturally calming oils, such as lavender.
- Give your dog a little Rescue Remedy, or a similar OTC product, before they hop onto the plane.
- Dress your dog in a thundershirt, or other similar products designed to calm anxiety.
- Provide plenty of toys and snacks that will take your mind off the fact that they are traveling.
None of these techniques are foolproof, but they should do a long way to calming your dog’s fretfulness about the travel process (see also ‘What Calms A Dog While Traveling? [Explained]‘).
Feeding a Dog During Travel
Keeping your dog fed during travel can be a complicated process and one that needs to be taken into careful consideration.
On the one hand, eating means that your dog will need to empty his or her bowels sooner or later. If they’re in a pet carrier for several hours, that’s going to be far from ideal – they’ll be uncomfortable whether they hold it or decide to relieve themselves.
On the other hand, meanwhile, eating can be very calming for a dog – especially if they have the opportunity to lick and chew, which are both soothing behaviors. This is perhaps even more important when traveling, as swallowing regularly will prevent ears from popping and stop your dog from experiencing too much discomfort from this.
Overall, this suggests that the best approach to feeding a dog while they travel is to offer a selection and array of interesting treats that will require a substantial amount of chewing. This will keep your dog amused and distract them from any nerves, while also satisfying any hunger.
Don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water as well though, as dehydration is a very real risk to your dog during travel. Follow our advice on what to do if your dog is dehydrated if you’re worried about their safety following a long trip on an airplane or ship.
Pet Relocation Services
If you decide not to travel with your dog in tow, you can look into a pet relocation service instead. This will involve handing Fido over to an external company and paying them to bring your dog to your new territory, possibly a week or two after you have arrived and got everything ready.
This comes with both positives and negatives. On the plus side, it’s one less thing for you to worry about. A good quality pet relocation service may also help you out with all your paperwork, and you can focus on the 101 other things that are oh-so-important when it comes to moving to a new country.
Of course, the cons are pretty obvious – you’ll be entrusting the most important thing in your life to a complete stranger. Do you want to go through the rigmarole and stress of moving to a new country without your furry best friend by your side? Do you trust somebody else to understand all of your dog’s quirks and foibles; how to settle them down when they’re anxious, calm them when they’re upset, and what games to play when they’re particularly energetic?
It’s a lot of faith to place in somebody that’s doing a job, so make sure that you are entirely comfortable with the service being provided if this is the route that you choose to take.
One alternative, if traveling with your dog yourself is not an option, could be to pitch in to pay for a friend or family member to make the voyage with you and act as Fido’s travel companion. The cost may not be radically different, and you’ll both have company in the strange new land of your new European home!
How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Dog Overseas?
This depends on what service you choose. Take into consideration important factors such as insurance, reputation, experience, etc. – and, of course, take your dog to meet the individuals in question and to have a good sniff around their ship, so they can get a feel for what may be their surroundings.
If you’re happy with the service that will be provided, ask for a quote based on the size, weight, and needs of your dog. It’s impossible to say how much would be, but do not expect any change from $500 – and in many cases, expect to pay more than this.
Can You Take Your Dog to Europe?
You can bring your pet into your new life with you – but there will be a handful of things that our continental cousins do a little differently, and both you and Fido are going to need to get used to that.
The good news is that you may discover that dogs are much more commonplace in Europe – and they’re allowed to join you on considerably more day trips that you’re used to in the States.
Many European territories will allow people to bring dogs to cafes, bars, and even museums, and most green spaces will be open to dogs off-leash. Don’t be alarmed by a lack of dog parks – the fact is, dogs are not typically constrained to specialist areas.
Are All Dog Breeds Welcome to Europe?
No, a great many dog breeds are banned in Europe. This means that you will not be able to bring certain canines into a new country.
The list of banned breeds varies from territory to territory, so always check with somebody associated with your new country of residence before you set off in search of a new life together.
To give some idea, however, here a handful of the breeds of dog that many European countries will not welcome:
- Pit Bull Terrier (inc. American Pit Bull Terrier)
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier (inc. American Staffordshire Bull Terrier)
- Argentine or Brazilian Mastiff
- Tosa Inu
If your dog falls into any of these categories, check that they will be welcome in a European country before heading off on your new adventure.
Do I Require a Dog License in Europe?
Some countries in Europe require you to obtain a license to be a dog owner and to pay an annual tax. Be aware that this is different from being microchipped, as that is a legal requirement in a great many European countries.
The following countries will insist that you take out a dog license if you’re looking to relocate to them:
- The Netherlands
- Northern Ireland (dog licenses are not required anywhere else in the UK)
As always, and this is becoming something of a mantra for us by now, check in with a relevant authority on the country that you’re moving to before you get there. Also, brush up on the local etiquette surrounding dogs in the European country that you’ll be living in– right down to the town wherever possible.
It goes without saying that you’ll be expected to clean up after any elimination that your dog may leave behind, but some countries feel stronger than others about leash laws, and when a dog is permitted to run free on green spaces.
How Do I Register with a New Vet in Europe?
This will be no different from the process here in the USA – find a vet that you feel comfortable with and book your pooch in as a new client.
However, it’s probably worth arranging this before you land in the country if that’s at all possible. You may feel that you’re rushing the decision a little by doing so, but you never know if you’re going to need a vet following stress or injury on the journey over. It’s always better safe than sorry.
Will My US Pet Insurance Policy Cover My Dog in Europe?
That depends on your policy – take a look at the wording. The chances are you might be covered for the first few weeks of your relocation, but eventually, you’re going to want to cancel your American policy and take out a new one related to your new home.
Unless they’re genuinely universal, your American insurer may not cover medicines and procedures in Europe after a while, and if nothing else you’re likely to end up paying through the nose due to exchange rates.