What vaccines do dogs need to travel around Europe


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Travelling with your furry friend can be an exciting experience, especially when you’re exploring the picturesque landscapes of Europe in your motorhome. We’ve been travelling full time for a while now in our motorhome with our cockapoo, Lottie and we honestly think it makes our travels so much better being able to bring her along with us.

However, it is vital to ensure your dog is properly vaccinated before setting off, as there are diseases in Europe that you wouldn’t need to think too much about in the UK. But, what vaccines do dogs need to travel around Europe? Let’s dive in and unravel this!

Understanding the Importance of Vaccines

Vaccinations are a critical element in the well-being and longevity of your pets. They prepare your dog’s immune system to defend itself against any invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens that mimic disease-causing organisms in a dog’s immune system, but don’t actually cause disease. The imitation of the disease prompts the immune system to produce a response, which includes the production of specific types of white blood cells that can recognise and fight the real disease in the future.

Why Vaccinate Your Dog for Travel?

Travelling exposes your dog to different environments and, therefore, to a variety of foreign pathogens they might not be exposed to at home. With the change in location comes a change in potential exposure to diseases. A vaccinated dog has a significantly lower chance of falling ill due to many prevalent diseases, thereby protecting not only your pet’s health but also your peace of mind during your journey.

Moreover, a healthy, vaccinated dog also contributes to public health. Certain diseases can be transferred from dogs to humans, such as rabies and leptospirosis. By vaccinating your dog, you’re not only protecting your furry friend but also contributing to the wellbeing of your family and the broader public.

Mandatory vs. Optional Vaccinations

While some vaccines are legally required for dogs travelling in Europe, others are recommended based on the risk factors in particular regions. The mandatory vaccinations offer protection against life-threatening diseases that are prevalent in Europe, while optional vaccines are given based on the specific health risks in the areas you plan to visit.

The Rabies vaccine, for example, is mandatory across the EU for travelling pets. Rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease, and its vaccination is crucial for your pet’s health and to prevent its spread.

On the other hand, vaccines like those for Leptospirosis and Canine Distemper, while not legally required, are strongly recommended due to the prevalence of these diseases in many parts of Europe. Your vet can provide the best advice on optional vaccinations based on your travel itinerary and your dog’s health condition.

Remember, vaccination not only safeguards your pet from harmful diseases but is also a passport for your furry friend to explore and enjoy the beauty of Europe alongside you. Always consult your vet to ensure your pet gets the right vaccines at the right time.

Key Vaccinations for Travelling Dogs in Europe

When planning a European adventure with your dog, it’s essential to familiarise yourself with the key vaccinations required. These vaccinations protect your dog against diseases that are either prevalent in Europe or pose a significant risk due to their severity. Here’s a detailed look at the three main vaccinations you should consider.

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system of almost all mammals, including humans. It’s typically spread through the bite of an infected animal. In Europe, the Rabies vaccine is mandatory for all dogs entering the EU, regardless of the country of origin.

The vaccine should be administered by a licensed veterinarian at least 21 days before travel. The date of vaccination, the vaccine’s name, and the expiration date must all be documented in the pet’s passport or health certificate. Ensuring your dog is vaccinated against rabies is not just a legal requirement, but also a crucial step in protecting their health and potentially, your own.

Leptospirosis Vaccination

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that dogs can contract from exposure to urine from infected animals or by drinking, swimming in, or walking through contaminated water. It can cause severe kidney damage, liver failure, and even death in severe cases. Although the Leptospirosis vaccine is not legally required for travel in Europe, it is highly recommended due to the disease’s prevalence, particularly in rural areas and places with standing water.

This vaccine is typically given in two doses, two to four weeks apart. It’s essential to plan and schedule this vaccination well in advance of your travel dates to ensure your dog is fully protected before you embark on your journey.

Canine Distemper Vaccination

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral illness. It affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Symptoms include fever, eye inflammation, nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhoea, and in severe cases, seizures.

While the Canine Distemper vaccine is not mandatory for travel in the EU, it is strongly recommended because of the severity of the disease and the ease with which it spreads among dogs. The vaccine is typically part of a combination vaccine, often referred to as the ‘DHP’ vaccine (Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus), which is usually given to puppies and then boostered throughout the dog’s life.

Remember, while these vaccinations help protect your dog from specific diseases, they don’t cover all possible health risks. It’s always best to consult with your vet to tailor a vaccination program that suits your dog’s age, breed, health status, and your travel itinerary.

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)

The Pet Travel Scheme, or PETS, is a system that facilitates the international travel of pets between member countries without the need for quarantine. Established by the United Kingdom, the scheme allows for seamless travel throughout Europe with your dog, given you meet specific requirements. Let’s delve into what PETS is and the steps involved in meeting its regulations.

What is PETS?

PETS was introduced to make travelling with pets between countries easier, whilst ensuring diseases (especially rabies) are not spread across borders. The scheme allows dogs, cats, and ferrets to move freely between member countries without undergoing quarantine, providing their vaccinations are up to date and they meet other necessary criteria.

It’s important to note that the scheme is strictly regulated, and failure to meet the requirements may result in your pet being quarantined on arrival or refused entry.

Steps for Meeting PETS Requirements

To ensure your dog complies with PETS, you’ll need to take several steps:

1. Microchipping: The first requirement for travel under PETS is to have your dog microchipped. The microchip is a small electronic device inserted under your dog’s skin. It contains a unique number that can be read by a scanner, helping identify your pet if they get lost. It’s essential that the microchip meets ISO standards (11784/11785) or can be read by a compatible scanner.

2. Rabies Vaccination: As mentioned earlier, a rabies vaccination is mandatory. This must be administered after the microchipping and no less than 21 days before your travel date. The details of the vaccination must be recorded in the pet’s passport or veterinary certificate.

3. Tapeworm Treatment (dogs only): If you’re travelling to certain countries like Finland, Ireland, Malta, Norway, or the UK, you’ll need to treat your dog for tapeworm 24 to 120 hours before arriving in these countries. Your vet must record the treatment in your pet’s passport or veterinary certificate.

4. Pet Passport or Third-Country Official Veterinary Certificate: The pet passport or certificate is a document where your vet records your pet’s details, microchip number, vaccination records, and any treatments your pet has had. This document serves as proof that your pet meets the necessary requirements and is safe to travel.

By adhering to the PETS guidelines, you can ensure your travel plans go smoothly and your furry friend can enjoy their European adventure alongside you!

Essential Tips for Travelling with a Vaccinated Dog

Now that your dog is properly vaccinated and ready for a European adventure, it’s important to take into account some additional travel tips to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and stress-free trip for both you and your furry friend.

Visit the Vet Before You Go

Although you’ve had your dog vaccinated, it’s always a good idea to have a general check-up with your vet before setting off. They can perform a physical examination to ensure your pet is in good health and provide advice on any additional precautions you might need to take based on your travel itinerary. Remember to ask your vet about any recommended treatments or precautions against ticks, fleas, and heartworm, which are common in some parts of Europe.

Pack a Pet First Aid Kit

Just as you would take a first aid kit for yourself, don’t forget one for your pet! Include items like bandages, tick removers, and any prescribed medications. Also, consider carrying a small supply of the water your dog usually drinks and their regular food to prevent any potential stomach upsets.

Ensure Your Dog is Comfortable During Travel

Whether you’re travelling by plane, train, or in your own vehicle, it’s important to make sure your dog is comfortable and secure. Consider a well-ventilated carrier or dog safety harness. Remember to take regular breaks on long journeys for your dog to stretch, exercise, and relieve themselves.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated and Avoid Feeding During Travel

Dogs can get travel-sick, just like humans. To minimise this, avoid feeding your dog for a few hours before travelling. However, make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times to keep them hydrated, especially in hot weather.

Keep Your Pet’s Documents Handy

Ensure that you have all the necessary documentation for your dog, including their pet passport and proof of vaccinations, readily accessible. You might need to show these documents at borders or if you’re asked by any authority during your travels.

Be Respective of Rules and Regulations

Different places have different rules regarding dogs, from leash laws to restrictions on where dogs can go. Always be respectful of local rules and regulations, and remember, not everyone is comfortable around dogs, so it’s important to maintain control over your pet at all times.


Ensuring your dog is properly vaccinated is a key aspect of preparing for travel around Europe. As we’ve explored, certain vaccines are mandatory, while others depend on the specific regions you’re visiting. Remember to always consult with your vet to tailor the best healthcare plan for your furry friend.


How often does my dog need to be vaccinated?

Vaccination schedules vary depending on the type of vaccine and your dog’s age and health. Always consult with your vet to establish the best schedule.

Can I travel without vaccinating my dog?

No, certain vaccinations like the rabies vaccine are mandatory for travel in Europe.

What is a pet passport?

A pet passport is a document that records all the treatments your pet has had. It’s essential for travelling with pets in the European Union.

Is leptospirosis vaccine mandatory for dogs in Europe?

Although not mandatory, it’s highly recommended due to the prevalence of the disease in Europe.

How soon before travel should my dog be vaccinated?

The rabies vaccine should be administered at least 21 days before travel. For other vaccines, consult with your vet.

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