Dog Passports: Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking to take your canine companion overseas anytime soon? If the answer is yes, you may want to read the below! Dogs, just like humans, need a passport to travel from country to country and whilst their application process is a little different to ours, the result is much the same. Before we go too far though, it is perhaps worth noting that the “dog passport” we refer to is now actually called an Animal Health Certificate or AHC.

By holding an Animal Health Certificate, your dog can begin to enjoy the adventures you and your family go on, and without the complications often associated with getting your own passport, the process can be relatively easy.

What is a dog passport?

For twenty years, dogs could travel abroad on what was known as a pet passport under a scheme known as the Pets Travel Scheme. Brexit has changed things. Pet passports as we knew them, no longer exist. We mentioned above that it is the Animal Health Certificate that takes the place of the pet passport when travelling to or from the UK and into EU countries. Should you travel outside of the EU, you will need an Export Health Certificate to act as your dog passport instead.

Something worth noting is that should you have had a passport issued for your dog in an EU country or Northern Ireland you will still be able to use it.

The animal health certificate that replaces the old version of the pet passport acts as proof of rabies vaccination and other treatments that may be required for travel. Certain countries may have varying requirements to others, so it is always worth checking what is expected from the country you are visiting.

By holding the animal health certificate, or dog passport as we will refer to it from now on, your dog can travel with you, without it having to be quarantined, although some nations may still require it. In addition, your dog can travel with you, in some cases, right alongside you in the cabin!

Do dogs need passports?

Whilst not a dog passport as such, the Animal Health Certificate or Export Health Certificate that you can be issued is the only way to get your dog into a foreign country. Without one, you could see your dog quarantined for the duration of your stay, immediately sent back to where it arrived from or possibly even destroyed. All of these would be carried out at a cost to you, making the trip not only additionally expensive but also not as much fun as you had hoped.

More or less all European countries operate with the same rules regarding entry for dogs and the documentation you will need for their permitted entry, however, some do have lists of breeds that may be banned or can only be allowed in public in certain areas. Spain for example, has listed certain breeds of dogs as dangerous and does not allow them off leads or without a muzzle.

Further afield and outside of the EU, there are similar rules where some breeds are banned or restricted in where they can go. By holding an export health certificate for your dog, it not only acts as a dog passport to enable travel, but it also acts as identification that can help with issues over compliance with local rules.

How to get a dog passport

Not every dog can be granted a dog passport (animal health certificate), due to the vaccinations required to obtain one. They must be at least 12 weeks old before a rabies vaccination is administered, meaning travel for puppies younger than this will not be possible.

To get the travel documents required for your dog’s passport, there are a few steps you must follow. Missing just one will make it impossible for the animal health certificate to be granted so ensuring you give yourself plenty of time to get them all completed is important. A vet who is registered as an OV or Official Vet will be able to help but be aware that there can be waits of a few months for everything to be completed.

The three key steps are:

  • Microchipping: This should be done as soon as possible for your dog. For travel to most countries, this will need to be an ISO 11784/11785 microchip. Your vet will be able to inform you of the microchip being used. This chip helps identify not only your dog but also stores your contact details should they be needed.
  • Rabies vaccination: This next step is extremely important as it’s mandatory. Forgetting this step means no travel for your dog! Book an appointment with your vet ensuring your dog is at least 12 weeks old and that the vaccination is being administered within the past year and at least 21 days before you enter the country.
  • Visit the OV (Official Vet): Once the vaccine has been given to your dog, you must wait 21 days before your dog can travel. This allows the rabies vaccination to take hold. After this time, visit the vet for them to grant your dog its travel documents. The vet will carry out an in-depth health check of your dog, making sure it is fit for travel and doesn’t have any health issues that could see it refused entry to the place you are visiting. This visit must be done no more than 10 days before travelling.

When attending the vet for any of these procedures, ensure any dog documents relating to health and identification are bought with you. This not only makes the job easier for the vet but also ensures the vet can check if everything you have is up to date.

You should also be aware that whilst the rabies vaccination is the only one shown on our list above, many countries outside of the EU will require other vaccinations or treatments to allow a dog entry to the country. Check with your vet for clarification in advance.

You should also factor in tapeworm treatments but where you have these will depend on how long you are staying in the country you are visiting. Tapeworm treatment must be administered at least 24 hours before you are due to enter the UK and within 5 days. This could mean that you can have the tapeworm treatment offered in the UK if you are only away for a short time. If it is to be given to your dog whilst abroad, ensure the vet makes note of it on your documentation.

How much does it cost to get a dog passport?

There are varying costs associated with getting a dog passport (animal health certificate) and these will depend on the destination you are travelling to. Our prices below show not just the costs for the Animal Health Certificate itself but also everything that is required for one to be issued:

  • Microchip costs: A microchip is a must and without one you won’t be able to progress much further in obtaining your dog’s passport. This isn’t an expensive part of the process and should set you back no more than £30.
  • Rabies vaccination costs: A rabies vaccination is extremely important and must follow on from the microchipping. You can expect to pay £50, perhaps less for this vaccination.
  • Additional vaccination costs: Depending on where you are travelling to, your dog may require additional vaccinations to have its dog passport granted. These could cost a further £50.
  • Issuing of Dog passport costs: The Animal Health Certificate must be issued by a vet certified to do so. The costs here can vary quite significantly and are perhaps the most expensive part of getting your dog’s passport complete. You can expect a fee of around £150 for this but it can also be much lower in some areas.

On average, you can expect to spend anything from £150 to over £300 on having your dog’s passport issued but much depends on locations, vets and whether there are any additional vaccinations required. We looked at a study carried out in 2022 and saw that the disparity between UK regions for the costs of dog vaccinations is quite substantial. It found, that the lowest costs of primary puppy vaccinations came in at an incredible £38 whilst the most expensive was as high as £122. The national average is £68. As a result, get yourself some quotes in advance to find the best possible prices for your area.

Additional fees and charges

It should be pointed out that not only do you need your dog to have its own regulatory travel documents, but it needs to have its travel planned too. These will also vary namely on where your dog is travelling to, the method of travel and how it will be stored during travel.

In addition, you should also factor in rabies titer tests and costs for parasite control. For these, you can expect anything from £60-£200 but again for them both to be completed. Just remember, not all countries will require them, so it is best to find out in advance rather than spend that money for nothing!

The rabies titer test and parasite controls are something PBS Pet Travel cannot help you with, but the travel arrangements are where we come to the rescue.

We work alongside many of the world’s leading carriers to ensure safe dog travel. Our costs are worked out to match your exact needs and as a result, are bespoke, unique to just you and nobody else. As a result, we couldn’t give you an accurate representation of the additional charges that could be incurred but factoring in dog travel crates, cabin fees (if they can travel alongside you, checked pet fees (if they can’t!), and import permits could mean you are spending several hundred pounds. All depends on the location you are travelling to so feel free to speak to our team to discover the most cost-effective method for you. And if import permits are required, let us know, and we can help with the process of completing all pet travel paperwork.

How long does it take to get a dog passport?

As long as you follow the correct procedures and ensure you get the correct vaccinations, visit an OV and do it within the correct timeframes, getting a dog passport or Animal Health Certificate is a fairly smooth process. The granting of one can be as quick as one day but, in most cases, you can expect a turnaround of 1-2 weeks from the visit to the vet. You should set aside a total turnaround of 6 months though. This is due to the varying requirements some countries have. For example, the rabies titer test, if required for proof of rabies vaccination being active, means you will have to wait at least 3 months to see your dog’s passport issued.

Should your dog fail the titer test, it will require the rabies vaccinations again before being able to submit a result from another titer test.

Dog passport rules and regulations

There are a few rules for how you use your dog passport, or animal health certificate as it is now known. Once your OV has signed it off and provided you with everything you need, it is valid for ten days. This gives you ten days to depart the UK and enter the EU. Once in the EU, you have four months of onward travel within the EU and four months of re-entry to the UK. Once you return, if another trip is in the offing, you will need to obtain a new Animal Health Certificate that your dog can use as its dog passport.

Rules for the Export Health Certificate vary per country so you should check in advance of any travel arrangements as to how long your dog can stay in the country for.

If you are aiming to travel abroad with your dog, it is imperative you have the correct documentation for legal pet travel. A dog passport, now known as the Animal Health Certificate, is the only way you can travel with your dog into other EU countries and should you want to go further afield, an Export Health Certificate will be needed. Once you have obtained these, speak to PBS Pet Travel, we can help facilitate the hassle-free and smooth shipping of your dog to anywhere in the world. Simply contact us today to ask any questions, or start with a free bespoke pet travel quote to see how cost-effective our service can be for you.