Motorhome Travel Planning In Europe II -> Pets
We’ve made it to July, and “things” are in the works which means more motorhome travel planning & thus more travel-related posts (wheeeee!)
A few weeks ago I launched this mini-series with a long post on European travel from a general perspective, covering the basics of just about everything I could think of from visa requirements to COVID restrictions. This week I want to continue by going in-depth with something close to our hearts, our furry family.
As long-time readers will know our two cats (Taggart & Rand) and our dog (Polly) were big reasons we bought an RV in the USA over 10 years ago. We wanted to travel, but only if our whole family could come with us, and the RV was perfect for that! When we moved to Europe in 2018 everyone followed with us, and of course a motorhome purchase was a given here too. Although our dear kitties have since passed on, Polly is still very much a part of our lives and we hope she continues to enjoy travel with us on the roads of Europe for many years more.
So, what does motorhome travel in Europe entail when you bring along a pet? Are all campgrounds pet-friendly? What about crossing borders with pet food & medications? What are the paperwork requirements? This is another looong post, but hopefully it’ll be useful for some of you so get comfy and lets dig in.
What Pets Can You Travel With?
Dog Travel: Most of Europe is very dog-friendly so the only real issue you may run into is banned or dangerous breeds, as defined by the country you are visiting. For example within most of Europe American Pitbull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers are banned, while some breeds such as Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Tosa, Aikita and Bull Terriers are banned in certain countries. This doesn’t mean you can’t travel with these breeds, but the restrictions will severely limit where you can go and what you can do.
Cats & Ferrets: For cats and ferrets there are no general bans (that I know of!), although certain cat hybrids (Scottish Fold, Bengal & Savannah) were banned in 2019 in Brussels specifically. Only time will tell if the Brussels ban will expand to other countries.
Other Animals: Many other animals can travel within EU, including guinea pigs, birds, and even reptiles as long as they are not endangered or specifically restricted by the Convention of Washington (CITES). However they will require additional documentation (see below).
European travel means crossing country borders, and just like humans there are rules for doing this with your pet. In general terms the paperwork you need depends on your pet and where you’re arriving from and it’s all detailed in this official website.
For a more laymans version: For dogs, cats & ferrets specifically, if you’re traveling into one of the 27 European Union countries from a non-EU country which is “rabies-controlled” then you need a health certificate. If your country is “non-exempt” or “high rabies risk” then additional testing (specifically a rabies titre) is also needed. For travel between neighboring EU countries everything is harmonized and a Pet Passport is all you need.
1/ Health Certificate: If you are traveling into EU with your dog, cat or ferret from a non-EU country which is “rabies controlled” such as USA, Canada or UK (i.e. your country is ON this list) then you’ll need the following:
- You pet must be implanted with an EU-compatible microchip (ISO 11784/11785), which is 15 digits long (note/ if your pet has a microchip that is shorter than this, it’s not the right kind).
- You pet must receive a rabies vax. This must be completed after the microchip implant, and at least 21 days before travel.
- Your pet must get a vet-issued health certificate, completed within 10 days of travel. This must be issued by an authorized vet and may also need to be endorsed before you can travel, depending on where you are coming from (e.g. in the USA endorsement is done by the USDA, in Canada it’s done by the CFIA).
Once issued and endorsed your pets health certificate will remain valid for 4 months of onward travel within the EU, across all borders (if you want to enter EU again after this 4 month period, you’ll need a new health certificate).
We did this for Polly & our 2 cats when we travelled from USA to Europe in 2018. We started the whole process around a month before we left the USA and although it took a few steps to complete, it really wasn’t that difficult.
2/ Rabies Titre: If you’re traveling into EU from an non-EU country which is “non-exempt” or “high rabies risk” such as China (i.e. it is NOT on this list) then you’ll need all the above PLUS a rabies antibody titration test taken at least 30 days after your pets rabies vax. This needs to be done by an authorized vet, sent to an approved laboratory, and levels must be equal to or greater than 0.5 IU/ml for travel. After the test you must wait an additional 90 days (3 months!) before arriving in Europe, so PLAN WELL AHEAD if you need this!
3/ Pet Passport: If you’re traveling within the EU between member countries with your dog, cat or ferret, them a European Pet Passport is all you need, and it’s a really good idea to get one if you travel here frequently. It can be issued by any EU vet, lasts for the lifetime of your pet (no expiry date), and remains valid as long as rabies vax is kept up-to-date*. Best of all it allows for unlimited border crossings & travel. We exchanged our USA-issued health certificates for French pet passports for all our 3 pets within our first month of entry into France.
*Rabies Validity: Polly has a 3-year Rabies vaccine, which is recognized throughout the EU. If you’re planning a side-trip to a non-EU country, you may need a 1-year vax.
All Other Pets: For anything other than a dog, cat or ferret the exact travel requirements depend on the particular import/export rules for that animal to the country you are visiting. In many cases a health certificate from a vet will work, but certain animals may also need additional documents (e.g. proof of Avian Flu vaccination for birds, registration paperwork for exotic pets etc.). As an example, this guy traveled with snakes and spiders.
To check specific country rules:
Additional Entry Requirements
Even if you have a health certificate or pet passport some countries require additional treatments or tests before you can enter.
For example, tapeworm treatment (echinococcus multilocularis -> a tablet treatment) for dogs is required within 24-120 hours of entry into Finland, Ireland, Malta, Norway or UK.
Also if you decide to take a trip outside the EU to one of the “high rabies risk” or “non-exempt” countries (say a little side-road-trip into Turkey or Serbia), you’ll want to get a rabies titer test before leaving the EU so that you avoid the mandatory 3-month wait before you can get back in. Rabies titre tests are valid for 2 years, so if any of these countries are in your plans, just get it done well ahead of time.
All vaxes & treatments can be recorded in your pets passport or on their health certificate.
Places to Avoid? There are two countries with specific rules that make them infinitely more complicated to visit with a pet. IMO these are best avoided altogether:
- Faroe Islands: you can only bring your pet if you intend to stay for longer than 3 months, i.e. you are moving to or living on the Islands. Temporary visits are not permitted nor are transit visits (note/ there is a specific exception for seeing eye/guide-dogs).
- Iceland: Although not part of EU, Iceland are members of Schenghen & EEA. Unlike the rest of these countries however they do not accept Pet Passports. Iceland requires a special import permit, a bunch of additional vaxes and checks before travel, as well as 14 days mandatory quarantine on arrival (which must be booked well in advance). It’s a lot!
Harnesses & Restraints
The other thing you should make sure of is having the appropriate harnesses for your pets.
Many EU countries legally require pets to be properly secured while driving. So, that means a proper seat/seatbelt attachment or a collapsible, secure cage or bag. In addition several countries (e.g. Italy, Portugal, Poland, Germany amongst others) require dog muzzles if you want to take your pooch on a public train or bus. Lastly most campgrounds and high-traffic public areas require pets to be on leash.
For Polly we travel with a Kurgo Tru-Fit body harness for the motorhome, plus of course a soft muzzle (in case it’s needed anywhere) and both a short and long leash (for walking around town, and hanging around in camp respectively). In addition we also carry Ultra Paws paw booties (not a requirement, but darned handy for rough ground), as well as a Reflective vest, for hiking visibility during hunting season.
For our kitties, although they are no longer with us, we traveled with Smiling Paws collapsible cat bags as well as full cat body harnesses + long leashes.
The cat bags were incredible handy not just for when we were on-the-move, but anytime the cats needed to be confined (e.g. mechanical breakdown when our motorhome had to go into the shop) and for vet visits. Finally the body harnesses were perfect for walking around & hanging outside with them in a secure way while in camp.
Pet Food & Medications
Pet supplies are superbly easy to buy everywhere in Europe.
Most European supermarkets have a dedicated pet section, and vets are happy to sell you medications and prescription food even if you’re just passing through. For backup purposes, I always recommend bringing along a file with your pets most recent blood test, as well as any specific diagnoses and copies of all their prescription medications. And of course always carry a first-aid kit for both yourself and your pet.
1/ Meds & Food From Outside the EU (e.g. UK to EU)
Meat-containing products are restricted for entry into EU, so if you’re traveling in from outside the EU you can only bring 2kg of pet food, for medical purposes. Anything else you will need to buy within European borders once you are here. If you can’t find the food you need in pet stores, grocery stores or at a vet, you can always buy online from a larger EU-wide supplier such as Zooplus (delivery to a campground if they allow it, or delivery to a local pick-up point) or through Amazon (delivery to an Amazon locker).
For medications, you are generally allowed to bring a maximum of 3-month supply of medications for personal use if you’re traveling from outside the EU. For anything longer than that bring along your pet prescriptions so that you can re-stock at a local pharmacy (e.g. in France and Spain, they will often accept foreign prescriptions) or through a local vet.
2/ Meds & Food Within The EU
There are no particular restrictions on transporting pet food and medication (for personal use) within EU borders, so you can essentially travel with as much as you want.
Still, you will want to stock up on specialty meds as even within EU borders, certain countries may restrict medications for pets.
For example, SubQ fluids can be tricky to buy for pets in Europe. You can get the supplies easily enough at any pharmacy in France, but it’s impossible to source them in Sweden or Denmark, and if you’re traveling with a pet with renal insufficiency this can be critical for their wellbeing. Similarly certain blood medications like Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa -> used to treat anemia) can be incredibly difficult to source (it’s approved for humans, but not always sold for pets), as well as certain restricted pain meds.
When in doubt stock-up, and bring along the prescriptions from your vet to support your inventory.
Ferries & Trains
The beauty about traveling in a motorhome, especially in Europe is that you rarely need to use public transport. In many countries however, it’s absolutely possible!
Ferries are common, especially between countries like UK and France, and around the Scandinavian countries. Almost universally, pets are allowed although they generally have to stay in the motorhome. Certain longer-distance ferries do have dog-friendly cabins however (for example Brittany ferries to/from from UK and Finlines in Finland & Sweden).
For trains, a surprising number accept pets, as long as they are either in a carrier (smaller pets) or leashed/muzzled (e.g. larger dogs). There are a few notable exceptions where pets are not allowed, particularly on Eurostar between UK & EU (all pets), and on Spanish RENFE trains (large dogs are not allowed, specifically). For the rest however, it’s mostly a “go”. As for cost, pets travel for free or a reduced fare.
We tend to stick to smaller spots where we can easily walk with doggie into town, so we rarely worry about trains, but we do anticipate some ferry travel if/when we go to Scandinavia this summer.
Campgrounds, Sightseeing & Eating Out
In our travels so far Paul and I have not come across any campground that prohibits pets, including our cats. Pet passports will often be required (they usually check the rabies shots), and most places will ask that you keep your pet on leash at your site, but otherwise there are few restrictions indeed. Camping in Europe is extremely pet friendly!
We have found the same for sightseeing and eating out.
Almost everywhere we have visited in France & Spain we’ve been able to bring Polly (except for inside museums & churches), and we have yet to find a restaurant that wouldn’t allow us to sit outside with her. I am sure we will come across some restrictions as we travel north this summer, but ultimately I don’t think we will find many.
IMO as long as your dog is well-behaved, you can take him/her almost anywhere in Europe.
Finally a more serious note. There are a few pet diseases which are endemic in Europe that you need to watch out and prepare for.
Leishmaniasis is transmitted by sand flies, primarily in Southern Europe from May to September and is a serious problem for pets. A strong insect repellant such as spot-on anti-tick/flea will help to prevent infection, as well as keeping your pets inside from dusk to dawn when the flies are most active. A vaccine is also available, although it takes several injections to get the required immunity. Read more HERE.
Tick-Borne Diseases are a problem throughout Europe. A good anti-tick topical as well as daily tick checks if your pets are walking in long grass or areas with heavy vegetation is key. If your pet is bitten and infected (look out for signs of fever, or the classic “bullseye” rash), a course of antibiotics can clear the infection if given early. Read more HERE.
Heartworm is a more recent issue in Europe mostly confined to the Southern countries, however it is slowly but surely expanding north. Coming from USA, we are well versed with this mosquito-transmitted disease and use preventative heartworm meds during the spring and summer months to prevent infection. Read more HERE.
Read more about these diseases from The Veterinary Nurse HERE.
THAT’s IT my friends. A mere 2,800 words later and I’m pretty much done, and congratulations to you for making it this far. Did I cover it all? What did I miss? DO feel free to ask in the comments section below!
GREAT additional resources:
- Travelnuity -> This gal has a TON of detailed resources on dog travel all over the world.
- Our Tour -> Good, concise overview of European travel in a motorhome with dogs
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