Travel with your pet

An owner’s guide by Dr Max Spicer, BVSc MRCVS, from The Veterinary Hospital, Dubai

International travel with pets is now much easier than before. The reduction or complete abolition of quarantine (provided certain formalities are fulfilled) makers it much less stressful for both pets and their owners. pictureFit to travel?

The first thing to bear in mind is your pet’s suitability to travel. Certain breeds of dogs and cats (such as flat nosed breeds) are banned from travelling during the hot summer months. This is in the interest of the animal’s welfare as flat nosed breeds are at higher risk of heat stress. Each airline carrier should be consulted on its specific rules.

Internationally, animals must be a minimum age of four months prior to export (this may be more depending on the country of import).

Certain breeds of dog are banned in many countries. Thesa include Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Toza, Fila Braziliensa and all of their crosses.

Elderly animals with heart/lung/joint disease and very young animals should especially be considered, and thorough examination of all age groups by a competent veterinarian should be carried out before travel.

Each country has its own protocol, which may change without notification - so it is always best to check with the relevant embassy on the latest requirements. Countries that are rabies-free have more involved requirements to prevent introduction of this terrible disease. Listed below are the basics to ensure your pet reaches its destination without any problems.

Pets travelling from the UAE

If you’re planning to take your pet out of the UAE, here’s a guide to the main rules covering various countries worldwide.

It’s important to note that if you intend to return to the UAE with your pet, you must obtain a re-entry card from the ministry’s official veterinarian prior to export. This will allow re-entry without the need for an import permit.


Since December 2004, the notorious six-month mandatory UK quarantine has been abolished as long as the following steps are taken. This is known as the PETS passport scheme.

1. Microchip identification

This electronic tag is simply implanted by injection under the skin of your pet, usually between the shoulders. In most animals it is done consciously and relatively painlessly without the need for sedatives or anaesthesia. When scanned, the tag provides a unique number to identify your pet. This is also valuable if your animal is found as a stray as his or her details can be registered on a world pet register website to aid return (

The microchip must be implanted before the rabies vaccination. If this is not the case, the pet will have to have another rabies vaccine after microchipping, but this can be done at the same appointment.

2. Rabies Vaccination

Given at three months of age and onwards. Once given, re-vaccination must be done in accordance with the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines (usually within every 12 months). It is mandatory for pets in the UAE to have annual rabies vaccination, regardless of the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines. As very young and old animals may have poor immune function, it has been recommended by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK) to re-booster the rabies vaccine one month after the first rabies vaccine before the next step of blood testing. This should ensure that adequate antibody levels are produced.

3. Rabies Antibody Blood Test:

After a minimum 21 days (ideally 30 days) has passed from the rabies vaccination, a blood sample is taken to confirm that the pet has the required level of antibody.

4. Six Months Residency

From the date of blood sampling (not when the results are received), the pet must wait six months before he or she becomes eligible to enter the UK without quarantine.

5. EU Veterinary Health Certificate

Within 24 to 48 hours before export, your pet will need to be examined by an authorised veterinary surgeon, and given treatment for endoparasites and ectoparasites in order to issue this certificate. It is important to plan in advance, ideally giving yourself at least eight months before intended export (in case the blood test fails due to inadequate immune response to the vaccine).

6. Maintain Rabies Booster

The rabies vaccine must be re-boostered within the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually annually) to maintain your pet passport. If it expires by one day or more, the whole blood testing/six month wait will have to be repeated! All of the above procedures can be done by our experienced veterinary surgeons at The Veterinary Hospital, Dubai, who are also approved to issue the EU health certificates.


Most of the mainland European countries require only the following:

1. Microchip identification
2. Valid rabies vaccination
3. EU Veterinary Health Certificate issued by an approved veterinarian within seven days of travel


Both of these countries have a minimum mandatory quarantine of 30 days only if their pre-export testing procedures are fulfilled.

Blood tests start at five months (Australia) and six months (New Zealand) before export. Other laboratory tests and treatments are done at specific times.

Planning for export to these countries should start at least seven to eight months before export, as rabies vaccination must be done before blood testing to ensure adequate levels are achieved (see UK procedure above). Australia will allow testing less than five months before export but the quarantine time will be proportionately longer.

The Australian quarantine service recommends to AVOID vaccination for leptospirosis (only for dogs) within six months of export as this can cause false positives in the blood tests and complicate the procedure. Vaccination for leptospirosis can be done after satisfactory blood results have been received. However, if your dog has been vaccinated for leptospirosis within the six months before export it is not necessarily a problem.


The majority of counties forming Asia require the following:

1. Microchip identification (for some countries)
2. Valid rabies vacccination.
3. Import permit issued by the country of import.
4. UAE Health certificate issued within seven days of travel.

Some blood tests and treatments may be needed in certain cases.


1. Valid rabies vaccination
2. UAE health certificate issued within seven days of travel.

NB: Hawaii has more involved import rules including rabies blood testing and quarantine - please call us for details.


Current requirements to enter the UAE with an animal are:

1. Microchip identification

2. Cargo Entry Only

It is now mandatory that all animals imported to the UAE is by cargo, i.e. in the aircraft hold. Carriage of animals in the cabin is not permitted for entry into the UAE.

3. Rabies vaccination

A valid rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the animal. If the animal is receiving rabies vaccination for the first time or it’s previous rabies vaccination has expired, 30 days must pass after the vaccination before travel is permitted. As rabies is given from three months of age onwards, all puppies and kittens must be at least four months old before export. This is also important in the young animal’s ability to cope with the stress of travel. Rabies vaccination must be repeated within 12 months (even though some rabies vaccines last two or three years, it is required by the UAE to vaccinate annually).

4. UAE Import Permit

Each animal must have an import permit obtained from the UAE Ministry of Agriculture.

5. Health certificate from the Exporting country

A health certificate issued within seven days of export by an authorised or government veterinarian.

About the Veterinary Hospital, Dubai. (04-3387726)

The longest established (30 years) private vet practice in the UAE. The hospital has just had a purpose built hospital made at Interchange 3 Sheikh Zayed Road (Umm Sequeim/Al Barsha area), and is fully equipped for all surgical, medical diagnostic, dental and examination needs.

Its highly-trained veterinarians from the UK and Australia are certified in specialities and adhere to the high standards of excellence demanded by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK) and The Australian College of Veterinary Surgeons. There are five vets in the practice, providing a wide range of experience and expertise.


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