Your Ultimate Guide to a Seamless Pet Move to Europe

So, you’re moving to Europe? Paris! Brussels! Amsterdam! How exciting! Moving to a new country with your best friend—your pet—adds to the excitement of exploring new horizons. We want to make this journey as smooth as possible for you and your furry companion. The good news is that if the import steps are followed correctly, there is no quarantine for cats and dogs entering the EU from the United States.

At PetRelocation, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process of bringing your dog or cat to the European Union. Let’s take a look at our guidelines to ensure you are well-prepared for a successful move.

Time Requirements: Plan Ahead for a Stress-Free Move

  • When starting from square one, you’ll need at least 21 days to plan your pet’s move. However, we recommend allowing at least a month of preparation time.
  • Pro Tip: Begin researching and preparing as soon as you know you’ll be relocating to Europe. Adequate planning allows you to handle any unexpected situations and ensures your pet’s comfort.

Vaccination Requirements: Preparing Your Pet for Travel

Your cat or dog must meet specific import requirements put in place by the European Union. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Microchip: All pets must have a 15-digit ISO-compatible microchip. If your pet has a non-ISO-compatible chip (usually having 9 or 10 digits), it may still be feasible to use. However, for a smoother customs clearance, we recommend obtaining the 15-digit chip.
  • Rabies Vaccine: After microchipping, your pet needs a valid rabies vaccine, administered after the microchip is implanted. The vaccine must be at least 21 days old at the time of travel.
  • Other Vaccines: Although no other vaccines are mandatory for entry into the European Union from the United States, we highly recommend keeping your pet updated on DHPP and Bordetella vaccines (for dogs) or FVRCP vaccine (for cats).

Final Veterinarian Appointment: The Importance of Health Certificates

  • For export from the United States to any foreign country, your pet must have a country-specific health certificate issued by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian. This health certificate then must be sent to your state’s USDA office (or the office advised on the USDA website ) for endorsement.
  • Pro Tip: Make sure the health certificate is not older than 10 days at the time of arrival into the EU. Plan your vet appointment accordingly.

Estimated costs for endorsement: Up to five pets can be be documented on one international health certificate. If you are traveling with more than five pets, you will incur costs for two endorsements. Currently UK health certificates are $38 USD per endorsement. 

A few notes:

  • Ask your veterinarian if they have the proper USDA accreditation. If your paperwork arrives at your state’s USDA office and it is issued by a veterinarian that does not have the proper accreditation it will be rejected & will cause delays for your pet’s move.
  • The health certificate cannot be older than 10 days old at the time of arrival into the EU. Make sure to arrange this appointment in the proper amount of time
  • The country-specific health certificates can be found on the USDA website. If the country you are traveling to is a non-English speaking country (Spain, Italy, Greece, etc…) your pet will need a bilingual certificate.

dog in Europe

The good news is, the EU is one of the less stressful destinations since it requires minimal vaccinations, and preparation time and does not require a TITER test. However, we understand that the process can be daunting, and we would love to help!

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Pet Travel: Understanding the “5-Day Rule”

  • Pet owners must travel to the EU within five days of their pet’s arrival to avoid the move being labeled as a “commercial” shipment. This is often referred to as the “5-day rule” and applies to all countries in the European Union.  If you cannot travel within five days of your pet, you can still send them a commercial health certificate. However, the timeline will be tighter, and a tax will be imposed upon the arrival of your pet. 
  • Commercial pet moves require a health certificate to be completed (and endorsed by a government entity) within 48 hours of the pet’s departure. If you don’t have a government office (like a USDA office in the United States, for example) nearby you may need to consider having your pet depart from a different city to make the short timeframe work. 
  • Once your pet arrives in the UK as a commercial move, you will be expected to pay at least 50 Euros or more depending on the size of your pet Also, the arrival process for a commercial move may take more time than a non-commercial move considering the stricter requirements.

Crate Training and Traveling as Manifest Cargo: Acclimating Your Pet to Their Travel Crate

  • Most families moving to the EU with their pets find flying their pets as manifest cargo the safest and most convenient option. This means it’s important to start acclimating your pet to their travel crate early and practice crate training often.
  • Pro Tip: If your pet is a very large dog, you may need to have a custom crate built to accommodate their size in manifest cargo.

Estimated costs for manifest cargo airfreight: Manifest cargo flights for pets are based on dimensional weight (or how much space your pet takes up in the aircraft). For international flights, these fees can range from $1,000 USD for a Chihuahua and up to $4,500 USD for a Great Dane.