Taking a dog to Spain and back in 2023: Exactly what you need to know
Travelling with a dog to Spain can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but it's important to do your research and prepare in advance to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey, especially now the rules have changed following Brexit. In this guide, we'll go over the key steps to travel with dog from the UK to Spain (and back again), including vaccinations, travel documents and other treatments required.
This guide is frequently updated by our vets to ensure the advice we give is up to date. If you think that something is incorrect or out of date please do contact us so we can update our guide.
Please note: this guide is for pet dogs travelling to Spain from the UK. If you are planning on travelling to Spain from another county, or if you are taking dogs over to Spain for commercial reasons, different requirements may apply.
6 Steps to Travel with your Dog from the UK to Spain and Back
1. Book your dog in for a rabies vaccination at the vets
All dogs entering the EU from the UK are required to be microchipped and to have a valid rabies vaccination, so the first step is to get this booked in at your vets if your dog is not already covered. Dogs must be 12 weeks old before they are eligible to get a rabies vaccination.
Prices for rabies vaccinations vary by vet practice but most vet practices charge between £50-90.
There is a 21 day lag following a rabies vaccination before you can get an Animal Health Certificate (the document required for travel). Most rabies vaccinations administered in the UK last for 3 years, so it is advisable to get this done well in advance of your travel date to avoid delays.
At the rabies vaccination appointment, the vet should either update your dog's vaccination card with the rabies details, or issue you with a separate rabies vaccination certificate.
You need to ensure that the following information is included on the vaccine card or certificate in order for it to be sufficient to get an Animal Health Certificate:
Pet details including 15 digit microchip number
Date of rabies vaccination
Batch number and manufacturer of rabies vaccination
Practice stamp and signature of vet who administered the rabies vaccination
It is not a requirement for your dog's annual vaccinations to be up to date in order to travel to the EU, however it is advisable to keep these up to date anyway.
2. Arrange your travel to Spain
There are many different ways to travel to Spain with a dog.
Flying with a dog to Spain is difficult and expensive as very few commercial airlines allow pets onboard. Also, it is extremely difficulty to fly dogs back into the UK; they can only travel in as cargo, not in the cabin or as check-in baggage.
As a result, most people travel with dogs to Spain by car, either through the Eurotunnel and down through France, or via Ferry to France and then driving to Spain, or a direct Ferry to Spain.
Below, we've listed the most common routes for taking a dog to Spain:
Most Common Travel Routes to Spain with a Dog
- Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to Caen in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to St. Malo in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in Spain - Ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao in Spain
- Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Poole to Cherbourg in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Plymouth to Santander in Spain - Ferry from Dover to Calais in France, then driving down to Spain - Ferry from Dover to Dunkirk in France, then driving down to Spain
Different routes have different requirements as to where your dog has to stay during the crossing; some routes have pet friendly cabins available and some routes require your dog to stay in the car during the crossing, so it's worth researching the different options and working out what is best for you and your dog.
When booking your travel, ensure you leave enough time for the 21 day rabies vaccination period to pass, as well as enough time to get an Animal Health Certificate issued by an Official Veterinarian. The Animal Health Certificate must be issued at least 21 days following your dog's rabies vaccination AND within 10 days of your departure date.
If your pet is going to be travelling with a friend/family member or with a pet transport company, you (the owner) must be travelling within 5 days of your dog's departure date. If you are travelling more than 5 days outside your dog's departure date, an Export Health Certificate would be required instead.
3. Obtain an Animal Health Certificate within 10 days of your travel date
An Animal Health Certificate (AHC) is a 9+ page document which must be issued by an Official Veterinarian (a vet who has done the extra course required to issue pet travel documents). It needs to be issued within 10 days of your departure date and more than 21 days after the dog's rabies vaccination was administered. Animal Health Certificates were introduced in January 2021, following Brexit, and they have replaced GB-issued pet passports.
Up to 5 pets can go on the same Animal Health Certificate and the certificate is valid for 4 months from the date of issue. However, they are single-use only, so you need a new certificate each time you travel from the UK to the EU.
The language of the Animal Health Certificate will be in English as well as the language of your country of entry into the EU. So if you are travelling directly to Spain (e.g. by plane or via Ferry to Spain), the AHC will need to be in English and Spanish, but if you are travelling through France first, the AHC will need to be in English and French.
For detailed information on Animal Health Certificates and answers to frequently asked questions please see our AHCs Explained page.
It is vital that the Animal Health Certificate is completed correctly as this is a key reason why people are turned away at the Eurotunnel or Ferry terminals. Once issued, make sure you keep hold of the certificate for the duration of your trip, as you'll need the AHC in order to enter the EU but also to return to the UK.
Vet practices have different processes and prices for issuing Animal Health Certificates, and not all vets issue them so it is worth doing your research to find a vet that can issue one in the required time period and at a reasonable price. The Official Veterinarian vet that issues the Animal Health Certificate must physically scan your dog's microchip so Animal Health Certificates cannot be issued remotely.
Prices for Animal Health Certificates typically vary from £100-£300 per pet. At PassPets, our experienced Official Veterinarians have issued hundreds of animal health certificates and we are one of the lowest-cost providers in the UK with certificates starting from £99. We have locations in both London and Havant (near Portsmouth). Check out our website or call us on 023 9245 3650.
4. Travel to Spain with your dog
Once the Animal Health Certificate has been issued, you have 10 days to depart on your trip to Spain. If you end up travelling after 10 days from the day the AHC was issued then you would need to get another AHC so it's worth trying to get the AHC issued as close to your departure date as you can, just in case your travel gets delayed.
Different ports have different procedures for checking in pets. The Eurotunnel require you to take your dog into their pet reception for them to scan the microchip and check the Animal Health Certificate, whereas Portsmouth ferry terminal checks the paperwork from your car when you pass through the barriers.
The Animal Health Certificate is valid for travelling with your dog throughout the EU (including Switzerland and Norway) for a period of 4 months from the date it is issued, or until the rabies vaccination expires, whichever date is earlier.
However, it is not valid for taking your pet to other countries outside the EU such as Morocco - you'll need an Export Health Certificate for this. Please contact us for more information on pet travel outside the EU.
5. Visit a vet in the EU to get tapeworm treatment administered between 1 and 5 days before you return to the UK
Before you return to the UK, all dogs need to have treatment against tapeworm administered by a vet and recorded in the Animal Health Certificate. This has to be done between 24 hours (1 day) and 120 hours (5 days) before you are due to arrive back in the UK.
This can be administered by a vet anywhere in the EU, so you can either get this done in Spain before you return, or you can get this done in France if you are travelling back to the UK via France.
The vet will need to administer the tapeworm tablets and record this in the table at the bottom of page 4 of the Animal Health Certificate you used to enter the EU.
This is an example of what the vet needs to complete on page 4 of the AHC:
6. Return to the UK with your dog
Once the dog has had the tapeworm treatment administered and 24 hours has passed, you are able to return to the UK.
At the UK border, the authorities will inspect the Animal Health Certificate to check the dog has been treated for tapeworm within 1-5 days, and whether it has been correctly filled out on the Animal Health Certificate.
Diseases to be aware of in Spain
In addition to the routine parasite treatment your dog may be on, ticks, mosquitos and sandflies are the main additional pests that you need to protect your dog against when travelling to Spain.
The diseases they spread include Leishmaniasis (spread by sandflies), Ehrlichiosis (spread by ticks), Babesiosis (spread by ticks), and Heartworm (spread by mosquitoes).
There are many products that exist which can protect your dog against these parasites and diseases so it is important to discuss the most appropriate combination for your dog with your vet before you travel.
Tips for travelling with a dog in the car
Use a dog belt or harness - this is obligatory in Spain.
Always take plenty of water, ideally in a non-spill bowl.
Feed your dog no sooner than two hours before you travel - your dog will travel better if they do not have a full stomach.
Take regular breaks.
Ensure your dog is secure and comfortable, and has a familiar toy and blanket with them.
Consider using calming tablets or calming spray.
Never leave your dog in the car on a warm day.
If you have any questions about taking your dog to Spain, please don't hesitate to contact us. One of our team will be happy to help.