How to take a ferry to the UK with your dog

Do you want to visit the Queen with your furry friend but are dreading the borders?

It’s ok, you’re not alone. Understanding how you can bring your pup can give you a headache (it certainly gave it to me).

The UK has slightly stricter regulations than other EU countries, mainly due to the fact that they  are a rabies free country and they want to keep it that way (rightly so).

I’ve crossed the channel with a dog via ferry 3 times (twice from Calais to London and once from Amsterdam to Newcastle) and thought that maybe it would come useful if I wrote a little blog post on how it worked out for me.

I had previously made a blogpost  on Travelling in the EU with your dog, but I thought it would be good to make a more in depth one on how to travel to the UK.

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Sorry. Had to.

Please note that this is based on my experience and as much as I try to be as accurate as possible, you should ALWAYS do your own research and if you have any doubts contact the UK pet travel scheme helpline.

Also, note that a unfortunately few dog breeds are banned in the UK. Check the list here.

This post is focused on EU travel (don’t ask me if Brexit will affect all of this, cause i have no clue and it makes me cry in despair just thinking about it) as very different rules apply for non-EU traveling.

Ok, let’s get started!

1. GET YOUR PUP A PASSPORT

The pet passport is THE document you need to travel with your dog, exactly as you need a human one.

The pet passport will contain all important info on your dog (age, breed, microchip n), health state vaccinations and boosters done and on the owner (name, address, contact number).

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With my passport freeeeee as a biiiiiird I will beeeee

The way you can get your passport may differ in every EU country, but as a rule of a thumb, your vet is your go to person.

In order to be able to apply for a passport your pup needs to be:

  • be older than 3 months old,
  • be microchipped,
  • be vaccinated against rabies.

The first two points are fairly straightforward, however some people do get confused on what to do regarding the rabies vaccination.


RABIES VACCINATION

If you are in a rabies free country (such as Ireland or Sweden) your dog might have never needed a rabies vaccination. Unless you are intending to travel to another rabies free country your dog will need one.

If any of those is true, you will need to wait at least 3 weeks (21 days) before traveling.

  • it’s the first time your dog is vaccinated against rabies,
  • it’s the first time your dog is vaccinated against rabies after the microchip was implanted,
  • it’s not the first time your dog is vaccinated against rabies, BUT the previous vaccination was expired by the time the booster was given,

 If  none of those is true, you can travel straight away.

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When I vaccinated against rabies Odie (in the UK) it was his first time so I did have to wait 3 weeks. Keep this in mind when planning your travels!

CAREFUL! If you are entering from a high-rabies country (eg. Cyprus), your dog will need to have a blood titer test after 30 days the vaccine was injected. If your dog passes the test, another 3 months will have to pass before he/she is allowed to enter the UK! Most EU countries aren’t high-rabies, check if yours is here.


 

To get your passport, just go to your vet and ask  for one. As simple as that.

Not all vets are familiar with the procedure and might refer you to another more knowledgeable vet. When I went to my vet clinic, they asked me to go back the week after when they knew there would be a vet that knew how to do it.

 

When you go for your passport appointment, all they’ll do is to fill in the details in the passport. Make sure that they are filling it correctly! The first time I went the nurse transcripted the microchip code wrong, and its only by luck that i noticed. That would have ruined the whole trip so make sure that you carefully check the details are correct.

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Don’t do like me, make sure the valid from and until dates are filled in!

Also, make sure that they fill in correctly the vaccination pages.

The vet needs to write in:

  • the manufacturer and name of the vaccine,
  • the batch n.,
  • the vaccination date and the valid from and until date,
  • their signature.

Double check this before leaving the clinic. My vet did not write the “valid until date” on Odie’s passport. I only noticed that when i stopped in the Netherlands to get Odie’s tapeworm treatment! Most rabies vaccinations are valid for 3 years, but I would not have wanted to have to explain to someone at borders why I was missing that information (i was lucky enough that the vet in the Netherlands filled in that gap for me).

The cost varies again from country and vet. Just to give you an idea, I paid mine £70 (rabies vaccination excluded).

TIP: don’t expect your vet to be able to answer all of your questions and shed light on the Pet Travel Scheme. Be prepared to do the opposite! Laws keep on changing, and vets don’t always are updated (i guess they have more important things to be thinking about aka saving your pups life!), so do your research before hand. Also, keep in mind that that might be the first time they are doing it, so help them out if you can.

2. CHECK OUT THE APPROVED ROUTES

Not all ferry routes/companies are allowed to carry pets on board. Check here which ones are.  I traveled from Calais to Dover and From Amsterdam to Newcastle Upon Tyne with DFDS, and I would travel again with them (don’t have much choice anyway).

Most companies charge 15/20 euros per dog in the car.

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Don’t want to advertise any particular ferry company, but ain’t this sunset pretty?

TIP: Do check which routes are available before you start planning your travels, as you might find that that cool/cheap route you had found is not approved!

3. BOOK YOUR TAPEWORM TREATMENT

The part I like the least, finding a vet for your tapeworm treatment.

So, all dogs entering the UK (unless you’re coming from Finland, Malta or Ireland but there are no ferry routes from those countries so…) need to have a tapeworm treatment administered not less than 24h and not more than 120h (1-5 days) from the scheduled departure.

If you are traveling from your home country to the UK, it might be quite easy to get this done at your local clinic. Things get harder when you are traveling and need to find a vet closer to where you are boarding.

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Handsome Odie at the vet clinic in Lisse

What I suggest is that you start looking for a vet at least 2 weeks before your ferry. Think of where it would be more practical to get the treatment done and then look on Google for nearby vets. Cities are better than little villages, as it’s more likely that the receptionist will speak English and that will understand what you need.

I never had issues in finding a vet willing to get that done, and I spent from 50 to 70 euros for the treatment (you might spend less if you have a smaller dog). I suggest you booking the treatment day for at least 48 before your boarding, just so you can reschedule an appointment should you experience any set backs!

Again make sure that all parts of the tapeworm page are filled in before leaving the clinic.

TIP: while you’re there, ask the vet if he/she can do a quick health assessment do your pup and log that in on the “Clinical Examination” page. It’s good to have, just in case.

4. GET YOUR PUP and CAR/VAN READY!

Your dog won’t be allowed to leave the vehicle. Sad but true.

For longer crossings (like the one Amsterdam – Newcastle Upon Tyne) you’ll be allowed to visit your dog up to three times to go to what they call a “dog hotel” (check my amsterdam vlog to see what it looks like).

 

So, get your pup tired beforehand and make sure he/she is comfortable in the car. Put extra blankets, his favorite toys and plenty of water. Avoid food for shorter crossings just in case he/she gets seasick. Leave the windows slightly open to let some air in.

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Odie in the ferry to Newcastle

If it’s a hot day and you’re afraid your dog could get a heat stroke, ask at the desk if the guys that work down there can go and check on him/her. If you are very concerned, ask the desk if there is any way to get the dog out of the car. Don’t know if they will let you as they are quite strict but I guess it’s worth a try.

I know it feels horrible leaving your pup, so all you can do is to make sure he/she’s so knackered he/she can’t even be scared.

TIP: i like leaving one of those bone knots or long lasting treat to Odie (he loves those) to keep him distracted.

5. DESTRESS

I really dislike borders, especially UK ones as I’m always afraid they will find something wrong with Odie’s passport.

Truth is: I have never had any issues. Everyone has always been very accommodating and nice. They just quickly check the microchip, the rabies vaccinations and that’s it. Does not take longer than 3mn.

Ok, there is always the risk of getting a particularly nit-picker officer, but as long as your papers are alright (and your dog does not bite a hand off of him/her) you will be fine.

 

Your dog will be fine too, if he was scared he will soon forget. Be prepared to give him/her lots of cuddles and treats when you finally arrive!

PS the gov.uk site also states that a non-commercial declaration should be signed (form downloadable here) to basically declare that you won’t sell your pup. Nobody ever asked for it, but I guess it’s good to have with you, just in case.

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In beautiful Bamburgh beach

There you are, I hope you found this post useful. If you find ANY incorrect details, please let me know so that I can rectify it.

Happy travels!


 

Other sites you might find useful:

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11 thoughts on “How to take a ferry to the UK with your dog

  1. Hi there, I have just been to the vets for a worming tablet here in Lithuania. All sorts of problems even had to phone my UK vet. His passport is from when we rescued him in Spain so his passport is Spanish. Lithuanin vet did not know where to stamp it and said it should be a European passport. When I mentioned this to my UK vet her reply was ‘I didn’t think of that’ derrr. It reinforces what you said vets do not know everything. I just pray the UK border are not too knit picking in the early hours of Mondy morning when I arrive at Dover. Everything is up to date and stamped just the wrong passport colour and different wording inside it. Happy travelling Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All did not go well at Calais, long story short they would not accept my document, missed my ferry and had to book into grotty hotel for the night. Next day go to French vet and get a new passport. Total cost of €105 which I will be claiming back off my Vets4pets vet in Andover. Only up side was that P+O ferries allowed me to book onto any ferry at no extra cost which meant we had a day sailing instead of a night one. I can only say check check and check again your pet passport is 100% up to date and stamped in the correct places

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      1. Hi PTV, my Skamper is Spanish so had Spanish papers. What I thought was his passport turned out to be a Spanish health certificate. Some say valid most say not valid. You cannot argue with the French animal customs people, I tried to no avail. They even mentioned quarantine which scared the £$%* out of me. It turned out everything was in order just wrong coloured booklet for pasport.

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  2. Great article, but… there are ferry routes from Ireland to Britain, namely Rosslare to Fishguard, and Dublin to Liverpool. You don’t need the rabies vaccine or the tape worm treatment, but you do need a pet passport because your pet is travelling between two EU countries. (Though goodness knows what will happen after Brexit – I too am weeping!).

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  3. For those of you who cannot even think of leaving your pup alone in the car on a ferry, then look into The Chanel Tunnel. I use it quite often and it is quick and easy. But the staff at the Pet Reception Centre follow the rules to the letter – so make sure your paperwork is correct! And I second what Patthevan says – do not assume your vet knows what to do, or how to fill the passport in, or what treatments your pet may or may not need. Make sure your info is up to date so you can let the vet know and then double check exactly what the vet writes where. For the tapeworm treatment double check they have entered the time of the treatment!
    Finally if you have time, please all bombard The Eurostar with complaints about not being able to take your pet with you to the UK! It is ridiculous that you can take a pet on a train all round Europe and all round the UK, but not in between the two!!
    Happy travels all!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great advice- thanks! We’re travelling with our Romanian rescue dog from Berlin to the UK (Amsterdam-Newcastle) in December. He’s a reactive dog and i couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him in the car or in their “dog hotel”, so we’ve booked a bigger cabin for him to stay with us for the crossing.
    Great to know not all vets are up to speed on checking the documents. I’ll be watching like a hawk to make sure everything’s filled out ok!
    Did your dog have to be checked both in Amsterdam and Newcastle? Given ours is fearful of humans, it’d be good to have a heads up! TIA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! I had no idea you could book a bigger cabin and be able to stay with your dog. this is great! Odie got checked only in Amsterdam, in Newcastle they didn’t even ask for his passport. Hope your crossing goes well!!

      Liked by 1 person

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