Moving with Max

Pets are becoming more and more a part of the family. They live in our homes, sleep in our beds, and the lucky ones even join us on vacations. So when considering relocation to another country many pet owners would never dream of leaving their furry family members behind. Thankfully for us pet-people, German-speaking countries welcome pets, especially dogs. While moving with your pet to Austria, Germany, or Switzerland may be far less complicated than say to the UK where quarantine rules apply, these countries do require three very important things: a valid rabies vaccination with proof, an identifying microchip, and some additional paperwork.

Switzerland, Austria and Germany currently require the standard EU veterinary certificate, formally called Form 988, which your North American vet will likely be familiar with and may have copies available in their office. There is a fee to have this form filled out. In the past this form has required an endorsement stamp from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or The United States Drug Administration. Currently the form only asks for your vet’s stamp. Be sure to check each time you are to travel as I have found these requirements change time to time. Form 988 can be ordered online or downloaded through various websites, for example:

EU Pets Info:

In addition, depending on what airline you will be traveling with, some require their own health certificate stating that the animal is fit to fly. Again, regulations can change over time so it is always best to give yourself plenty of time before your intended departure to be sure all the necessary paper work is completed and regulations are met, and within the time frame required. You don’t want to end up having to delay your departure because of your pet. My move to Germany was delayed while I waited the 21 days necessary to render my dog’s new rabies vaccine valid.  While I was fortunate to have flexibility in my departure date, some employers or families may not be so understanding, and you may have to leave your pet behind or ship it later in cargo.

In addition to preparing the paperwork it also very important to properly prepare our pets for the long journey.  If you are lucky enough to be able to bring your pet in-cabin you will likely find the experience far less stressful than those who must put their pets below in the dark cargo hold of the plane.  As the owner of three dogs, two which I deem “travel friendly” since they fit so nicely under the seats in front of my husband and I, and the other that must go below, I have much experience with both scenarios.  For both circumstances the most important thing you can do ahead of time is get your pet used to its carrier. If your pet is already kennel-trained you will find this easy, but if your pet has spent little or no time in a cage you are going to need to start practicing as far in advance as possible. The last thing you need is a howling cat on-board or a dog that breaks its claws or teeth trying to escape its kennel. In fact, airlines state that the number one cause of injuries and fatalities of pets during travel is due to those animals that attempt or manage to escape their carrier on the tarmac, before or after the flight. Undoubtedly it is very stressful for your pet to fly, adding the fear of being kenneled for perhaps the first time could surely lead to some desperate escape attempts. Make your pet’s kennel a familiar and comfortable place. This has to be done in small steps, increasing time little by little. This will also help them learn to hold their bladder since dogs will very rarely make a mess in their own small space.

Dealing with bathroom issues is another area that needs some planning. It is not recommended to withhold water from your pet in order to avoid messes en route. Staying hydrated is one of the key factors in staying healthy while flying, for both pets and people. Cutting back on food before the big trip may be advisable to keep your pet comfortable while locked up for such an extended period of time. The most beneficial thing you can do though, is be sure to take your dog for a big walk, or have an indoor play session with your cat, immediately before you are to leave for the airport. You want to get them moving, tired, and hopefully wanting to “use the facilities” before they are caged up.

Once you arrive in your new German-speaking country don’t be surprised if airport authorities fail to ask you for all those forms you worked so hard to complete. Of the three trips I have made into Germany and the two into Switzerland, I have only been asked once to show documents. But of course, better safe than sorry; I figure it is a sure bet that the one time I don’t have the right forms is when I will be asked for them.

When you are settled into your new home you can then contact your nearest vet or Tierpraxis. I have yet to find a veterinarian in Germany and Switzerland that does not speak English. They will register your pet, making sure that their micro-chip now connects your pet to your new address.  There is usually a fee for this service. You will be give an EU pet passport which is an extremely handy record of your pet’s information and vaccinations. With this passport you will then be able to freely travel within the EU with your pet.

My dogs and I have traveled to ten different countries in the four years I have lived in Germany and Switzerland. They have made the experiences so much more fun (and the photos extra cute!). Most European countries welcome pets in their hotels, parks, public transit, restaurants, etc., much more so than in North America. Hiking up the Alps, riding the train along Rhine, sitting in the sand in the Canary Islands – my dogs have done it all. With the proper training and preparation yours can too, and Europe is certainly the place to do it!

A few personal tips:

  • A good trick for pets traveling in cargo is to freeze the water in the water dish that detaches from the cage. That way it won’t spill while your pet is being loaded onto the plane.
  • For pets in-cabin, keep a few tiny new toys in your bag like bones or cat-mice. If you hear them getting restless pop one in their carrier.
  • To get my cocker spaniel prepared for her first flight to Germany I put her in her kennel in a dark bathroom, with the loud fan on, since such a setting is very similar to the one they will find themselves in within the cargo hold.
  • Do a little online research to find out where the green spaces are located around the airports you will be traveling through. Some airports have them listed on their sites or you may be able to see them on airport maps.