France is a beautiful, friendly country with plenty of walking, however there are a few things of which you need to be aware if you are planning to take your dog there.
Killer caterpillars, madmen with guns and a few fierce locals are just a couple of the hazards worth considering before you let loose your Fur Baby in France, as well as widespread dog restrictions on beaches and in national parks.
We tour overland in a truck camper. This blog does not cover flying with dogs or dog-friendly accommodation.
- Before You Go
- 1. Is France Dog Friendly?
- 2. Are the Locals Friendly?
- 3. Are Dogs Welcome on Campsites?
- 4. Walking in France – Chein Interdit!
- 5. Climate; Overheating & Sun Protection – or Cold!
- 6. The Hunting Season
- 7. Large Predators – Wolves, Bear & Lynx
- 8. Disease Control Measures
- 9. Poisonous Snakes
- 10. The Killer Caterpillar – Pine Processionary Caterpillars
- In Conclusion
- Bon Voyage!
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Before You Go
You need to start preparing at least a month before departure to ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and remain valid for the duration of your trip.
If you plan to visit a high rabies country from France, you need to plan at least four months before, as your dog will need a rabies antibody blood titer test in order to re-enter the UK/EU.
A. Entry Requirements for Dogs into France from UK/EU
Post Brexit, the EU Commission classified the UK as a ‘Part 2’ Listed Third Country. Since 1st January 2021, UK issued pet passports are no longer valid.
For non-commercial transport to France from the UK or EU, your pet will require:
- Microchip compliant to ISO 11784 /11785. If the microchip is non-compliant, you can bring your own scanner.
- Valid Rabies Vaccination – France recognises a 3-year vaccination, however it should only be administered as a booster, not the primary (initial) vaccination.
- Valid EU Pet Passport or Bilingual Animal Heath Certificate – for more information on this, see Animal Health Certificates – What You Need To Know, which includes a checklist to ensure your vet has filled out your AHC correctly. If they have not, you may not be able to travel.
- Pets from other countries – note that the requirements will be different if you are entering France from a high rabies country, or from other countries around the world. Click here for more details on the entry requirements for dogs into France.
- More Than 5 Pets – is considered a commercial movement and more strict rules apply.
Like most countries, France does have a list of Banned Breeds, which in some cases may be admitted with pedigree papers and other restrictions.
Banned breeds are usually fighting or attack dogs, which in France includes Staffordshire and American Staffordshire Terriers, Japanese Tosas and Rottweilers. Crossbreeds of these dogs are not permitted.
Mastiffs and Boerbull breeds and their crosses may not be imported.
Click here for a list of banned breeds by country on a third party website and here for more details on banned breeds in France and the owner’s responsibilities. This links to the French customs site, which is unfortunately, not particularly helpful!
B. To Re-Enter the UK from France
Tapeworm (Echinococcus) Treatment
The UK accepts EU pet passports, but your dog will require Tapeworm (Echinococcus) Treatment which must be administered between 120 hours (5 days) and NO LESS than 24 hours before entering the UK. It involves a vet examination and administering a single pill.
The treatment must be recorded on the AHC or pet passport correctly, or you will not be able to travel. Check that the vet has entered the following details in the ‘Anti-Echinococcus Treatment’ section of your dog’s Pet Passport or AHC:
- The name and manufacturer of the product with which your dog was treated
- The date and time they treated your dog, recorded in 24-hour clock format
- Their stamp and signature
C. Other Vaccinations and Medical Recommendations
See Section 4 for more details. Travel may expose your dog to diseases to which s/he has no resistance, so it is recommended that your dog is fully protected and up to date with:
- Vaccinations for common diseases, such as DHPP.
- Worm and tick treatment.
- Leishmaniasis is a potentially fatal disease in dogs, which is rife in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Click here to find out about leishmaniasis and how to prevent it.
D. Getting to France
Your pup is supposed to wear a muzzle at check in, but we have never had this enforced.
- Eurotunnel (The Channel Tunnel) – a quick, 30 minute hop on the train. Your dog stays in the car with you.
- Ferries – there are various ferry services to France.
- Dog Friendly Cabins – DFDS Newhaven-Dieppe and Brittany Ferries (on some crossings) offer dog friendly cabins, so your fur baby can stay with you. These are limited, so book early.
- Stay In Caravan or Motorhome – your dog can stay in your caravan or motorhome during the crossing. You will be allowed an accompanied visit to take them to the exercise deck for necessities once or twice, depending on the length of the crossing. If you can’t get a dog friendly cabin, this is the next best thing as your pup will be in familiar surroundings. However, do plan the time of your crossing – we have heard terrible stories about dogs dying of heat exhaustion during summer crossings. An overnight crossing might be advisable at the height of summer.
- Kennels – I DO NOT recommend the kennels on the ferry. They are horrible! Cramped, noisy and smelly.
E. Where to buy dog food in France
Post Brexit, it is not legal to take meat and dairy products from the UK into the EU, except in very small quantities for medical reasons. However, since the French keep dogs as pets, dog food is widely available.
- Supermarkets – The large supermarkets stock well-known brands such as Royal Canin.
- Online – We tend to buy online from the local Zooplus, Bibita or Amazon (you can use your UK account to buy from Amazon.fr) and have it delivered by arrangement to campsite reception. Both websites also have the decency to translate themselves into English. Animalis and Wanimo are also large French online suppliers.
- Maxi Zoo is the French equivalent of Pets at Home, and has stores all over France.
Before you leave the UK, you can easily check whether your dog’s usual food is available in France. If not, you could switch to a brand that is available in France ahead of your trip, to give your pup plenty of time to adjust. Alternatively, check the ingredients and find a substitute that is a close match.
French Dog Food Vocabulary
- Dog food – alimentation pour chien or nourriture pour chien
- Kibble – croquettes pour chien
- Wet food – nourriture humide pour chien
- Treats – friandises pour chiens
- Dog food for sensitive eaters – Alimentation bio pour chien
1. Is France Dog Friendly?
That’s a resounding OUI! The French seem to love dogs – around 40 per cent of French people list their dogs as THE most important thing in their lives (even more important than their lovers!)
We have found that well-behaved dogs are welcome in hotels, restaurants and bars. We always ask first, just to make sure, but I can’t remember a single occasion when we have been refused, even when we have met new friends and turned up with 5 dogs!
There are risks, however. Mark did once nearly get a slap when a pug on the next table stuck its nose up our waitress’ skirt…
One of the down-sides of France having one of the highest ratios of dogs : humans in the world (around 17 : 100) is that you need to watch where you put your feet. Although allowing déjections canines is an offence worthy of a hefty fine, poo picking is not a popular French passtime. That doesn’t mean that you are exempt from collecting up your canine’s ‘crotte‘, however!
2. Are the Locals Friendly?
There seem to be predominantly two types of dog in France; small, pampered handbag dogs and SERIOUS farm, hunting and guard dogs who live outside; either chained (rope is not strong enough!) or patrolling ferociously like panthers behind high metal fences. Do not approach them. These are dogs with whom you and your pooches DO NOT mess!
Spaying and neutering is not too fashionable in France either; there are a lot of strays and even pet dogs are often left to roam free…so do watch out if there is any chance of Anglo-French relations getting a bit too cosy – and productive!
Dogs are fully multi-lingual, however, so we have found no communication problems between friendly canines!
3. Are Dogs Welcome on Campsites?
The ACSI campsite guide allows you to search for campsites which welcome dogs. If the campsite states that it will take a maximum of 1 dog, this is usually adhered to. Where it says ‘maximum 2 dogs’, we have found that there is room for negotiation and we have never had a problem checking in with four. My standard line to receptionists is “Ils sont très petits et très gentilles!” – “They are very small and very friendly!”
Unlike in the UK, there is almost always a charge for dogs on campsites, so it is worth checking the price. The charges vary but can be as much as €4 per dog per night in high season, which can add considerably to the cost of your stay! Thankfully, most receptionists were very understanding and charged us only for a maximum of two dogs.
However, do be aware when booking campsites that access to local beaches MAY be restricted. See below;
4. Walking in France – Chein Interdit!
With around 180,000km of well-marked and maintained walking trails, France would seem to be a paradise for dog walkers. There is a huge system of Long Distance Walking Trails known as Grande Randonnées (GRs) and tracks that loop through a particular area known as Grandes Randonnées du Pays (GRPs). Shorter tracks are known as Promenades et Randonnées (PRs). The trails all have colour-coded markers. Maps and Guidebooks are available for most of the routes.
While the French love dogs, we were surprised at the extent of the restrictions placed on where you can walk with your dog, even on a lead. These restrictions make following the full distance of many of the GR walking paths impossible, so if this is your plan, make sure that you check for dog-friendliness along the entirety of your route first! Some city parks do not allow dogs even on a lead, so check for ‘Chien Interdit!’
Dog Restrictions on Beaches and in National Parks
Beaches – on some of the more touristy beaches (‘guarded beaches’) dogs are banned during the summer months, so seek out wild or ‘unguarded’ beaches. In some places, however, the ban is all year round. It is worth checking nearby beaches for dog-friendliness before you commit to a campsite. The en.plages website is helpful in identifying dog-friendly French beaches.
National Parks – we were again very surprised to find that dogs are banned completely in all but one of the six National Parks, even on a lead. At the time of writing, only the Cévennes National Park permits dogs on leads.
Regional Parks – there are 58 Regional Parks in which the rules are more relaxed, specifying only that dogs should be ‘kept under control’ to prevent them from disturbing wildlife. Click here for a link to the website for the Regional Parks.
Dog Walks Near Motorways – Aires on the motorways and major roads are great place to stop for a comfort break with your dog on a long trip. Driving with Dogs lists walks (and vets) within 5 miles of motorway junctions to help you when you’re on the move!
5. Climate; Overheating & Sun Protection – or Cold!
Heat Stroke – Dogs are very prone to overheating and this was a concern for us, with the temperature in the high 30s for most of the time that we were in France. In warm temperatures, make sure that your dog has plenty of shade and constant access to drinking water. Ask for a pitch that is ‘ombreuse’, which means ‘shady’.
Our dogs love water, so we took a paddling pool with us for them to splash around and cool down. They seemed to view this more as an oversized drinking bowl, however…!
We tried to plan walks around a river, a lake or the sea so that they could chill and cool off periodically. We always made sure to take plenty of drinking water and a portable, folding silicone bowl when out walking. (If you half-fill a water bottle and freeze it on its side, before topping it up with fresh water, it will stay cool for hours.) Our pups also enjoy chewing on ice cubes, which helps to cool them down!
We never left the dogs alone in the caravan during the day. Even with the blinds closed, it got far too hot within a very short time. Most campsites do not permit dogs to be left alone in any case.
Burned Pads on Hot Pavements & Beaches – If it is painful to press the back of your hand on to a pavement surface or the sand for 30 seconds, it will be painful for your dog’s paws! Choose shady walks or walk in the morning or evening when it is cooler.
Sun Protection – Your dog’s fur offers protection from the sun, so avoid cutting long coats too short. Fur plays a part in temperature regulation in the heat as well as the cold by trapping air next to the skin. Grooming is important; regular removal of dead hair will help greatly in keeping your dog cool. We also take an umbrella, sarong or a small festival tent to provide shade when we’re on the beach.
For more tips on keeping your dog comfortable in the summer, see Hot Dogs – 10 Tips for Keeping Canines Cool When It’s Hot
Winterised World Wide Walkies – 10 Tips to Keep Chilly Canines Cosy! might be helpful if you are heading to the cold parts of France with your dog, such as a winter holiday in the Alps.
This is also a quick guide on What Happens When Your Pet is Too Hot or Too Cold.
6. The Hunting Season
‘La Chasse’ or The Hunting Season in France runs from September to March. France is the only country in Europe in which hunting is permitted every day of the week. During the hunting season, it is not uncommon to come across snares or traps. Every season there are shooting fatalities, where people or animals have been mistaken for game. So be wary when walking through or near farmland in the hunting season!
7. Large Predators – Wolves, Bear & Lynx
The only time that you are likely to see any of these large, dangerous animals is in a zoo. For completeness, however, I felt that it was only correct to include details, since these animals are indigenous to France.
Wolves were extinct in France in the 1930s but have re-entered via the Alps from Italy, where they have been never extinct. Although it is said that the population is spreading and increasing (there are around 300 individuals at the time of writing) you are unlikely to see them and if you did, they would probably run away! Although they do take larger prey, they feed mostly on small mammals, birds and fruit. For details of our own wolf encounter, see Walking with Wolves
Bears – There is a small population of brown bears in the Pyrenees. They are wary of humans and roam mostly at night, so once again, you are very unlikely to see them. As with any large predator give them a wide berth if you do come across them; they are only really a danger if taken by surprise.
Lynx – Around 200 lynx live in the Vosges, Jura and the Alps. About twice the size of a domestic cat, this is another shy predator whom you are very unlikely to see!
Wild Boar – There are an estimated 2 million wild boar (‘sangliers‘) in France living in mixed agricultural / woodland habitat. We have never seen one, but if you do, never approach a wild boar, especially a wounded one.
The Testicle Biting Fish – the Pacu, a cousin of the Piranha – the scourge of skinny dippers in the Seine (and Scandinavia – among other places) appears to be a hoax. You could call it a Pacu of lies…!
8. Disease Control Measures
What Diseases Are a Risk to my Dog?
There are a number diseases caused by bacteria and protozoa in Continental Europe that are rare or non-existent in the UK, so your dog is unlikely to have any natural immunity. These are transmitted by insects; such as ticks, sandflies and mosquitoes or by worms; such as heartworm or tapeworm. The diseases and carriers vary according to which part of Europe you travel to, so take advice from your vet.
Methods of Prevention
- Keep your dog indoors at dusk and dawn, when insects are more likely to be active.
- Check daily for ticks and remove them immediately. Tick prevention (such as ‘Frontline’) is not 100% effective and ticks carry quite a few lethal diseases, particularly in Mainland Europe. We carry a O’Tom Tick Twister (NOT tweezers) with us at all times and have found this cheap option to be the most effective for tick removal by far. When removing the tick, do not squeeze the body, or disease-carrying fluids can be squeezed back into your dog. Make sure that you remove the whole tick, including the head. It should be live and wriggling when removed. Dispose by drowning in a jar of alcohol – don’t squash it, as this potentially releases diseased fluids that can be hazardous to you. Flushing down the loo won’t kill it!
This excellent fact sheet gives a comprehensive overview of the common diseases, a guide to regions in which they are found and preventative measures; Foreign Travel Information for Dogs
In many parts of the Medterranean, Leishmaniasis is a potentially fatal disease in dogs. Click here to find out about the disease and how to prevent it.
9. Poisonous Snakes
There are few venomous snakes in Europe; the one in Britain and three in France belong to the viper or adder family*. Adders are small snakes, around 50cm long, with slit-shaped pupils. They are grey or reddish brown with black zig-zag patterns down their back. Vipera beris, the common European adder (the one you might meet in the UK) has a distinctive black X or V on the back of the head.
Adders are shy snakes with acute senses. Bites are rare, since the snake will mostly likely disappear long before you even know that it’s there. Adders bite only in self-defence, if they are disturbed or trodden on. Truthfully, if you see one of these rare and often endangered creatures, you should probably consider yourself very lucky!
In the unlikely event of your dog being bitten, a photo of the snake is helpful, but don’t risk getting bitten yourself, particularly by trying to pick up the snake. All snakes are protected in the UK and France, so it is a crime to harm them. Signs of an adder bite will be significant swelling and pain around the bite along with depression or lethargy. Try to keep the dog still to prevent the venom from spreading and seek veterinary help straight away. Complications are rare and with prompt treatment, you can expect your dog to make a full recovery within a matter of days.
*There is one other venomous snake in France that is not a viper, however the large (6ft) Montpellier snake is rare and because it is only mildly venomous and the fangs are at the rear of the mouth, it is not considered a risk. For more information about snakes in France, where they are found and action to take in case of a snake bite, click here.
10. The Killer Caterpillar – Pine Processionary Caterpillars
A hazard of which we were unaware until a friend living in Spain told us about it is the Pine Processionary Caterpillar. Awareness seems to be low and it has been difficult to find information about the caterpillars, so I felt it would be useful to share my research here.
What is the Pine Processionary Caterpillar? – The pine processionary caterpillar is the larvae of a silk moth, Thaumetopoeia pityocampa. They live ONLY in pine trees, feeding on the needles. Infected trees contain distinctive white nests, which look like cotton wool balls. Moving to the ground for the second (chrysalis) part of their life cycle, the caterpillars join up in long lines, nose to tail, which gives them their name. The caterpillars are active in winter and spring, from around September to March or sometimes later, depending on location and weather conditions.
Where are the Caterpillars a Risk? – The caterpillars are most common in Southern Europe (Spain and Portugal) but with climate change they have been moving north. There has been the odd sighting in France as far north as Paris. I don’t want to promote panic; we camped in a pine forest in Île d’Oléron in September and saw no sign of caterpillars, however a friend in Bordeaux did find and destroy an infected tree on his land.
When are the Caterpillars a Risk? – It is simply a case of being informed and vigilant. You ONLY need to worry about caterpillars in OBVIOUSLY INFECTED PINE TREES at the time of year WHEN THE CATERPILLARS ARE ACTIVE.
Active caterpillars are easily spotted in their processionary lines, as in the picture above and the white nests (below) are clearly visible in an infected tree.
Why is the Caterpillar a Risk? – The moth itself poses no threat, but the caterpillars can cause harmful reactions in humans and animals and have been known to cause death in dogs. The caterpillars protect themselves with a toxin (thaumetopoein) in the hairs around their body. The hairs inject the toxin, which can cause swelling, severe allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock. A threatened caterpillar can fire its hairs like harpoons. Unfortunately, it’s not just a nosy dog poking around in the undergrowth and annoying a caterpillar that is at risk; the hairs don’t need to be on a caterpillar to cause a problem. Hairs are shed in the nests and around infected trees, so even if the wind blows dust from under pine trees into your face or your pup walks on the litter under a tree and then licks his paws, it can mean trouble.
Symptoms & Treatment – The symptoms to look out for in your dog are drooling, salivating, vomiting, drowsiness or listlessness followed by irritation (rubbing) and swelling of paws and face. The severe swelling of lips and tongue can also cause breathing difficulties. Infected tissue can die and fall off – our friend’s dog lost part of his tongue. I have a photo, but feel that it is a little too gory to post!
If you see any of these symptoms, get to a vet immediately. Prompt treatment will save your dog’s life. Methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory steroid is one treatment indicated in cases of caterpillar toxicity, but this should be administered only under the care of a vet since dosages vary. A homeopathic remedy, Apis is also suggested. As a scientist, I do have my reservations about homeopathy. Nevertheless, reports suggest that Apis helps as a first-line treatment against caterpillar toxins HOWEVER, do not let this deter you from seeking immediate veterinary treatment.
Preventative Advice – is to simply steer clear of infected pine trees in spring (you will see the white nests.) September to May are times to be vigilant, although the caterpillars are not active throughout this period; it will depend on the climate and weather in the area where you are staying. The best advice is to ask locally.
Further Information – For a sanguine and factual account, click here. For more pictures of the caterpillars at all stages of development and an emotional story about a caterpillar encounter in Portugal, click here.
Another species of processionary caterpillar is the Oak Processionary Caterpillar. A native of Southern Europe, unlike its Pine dwelling cousin, the Oak Processionary HAS been found in the south-east of England and is also worth avoiding. Sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission.
I hope that you find this information helpful in keeping you and your dog safe. Further doggy travel tips, such as what you need to know about doggy passports, banned breeds & information on travelling safely and legally with dogs are available in The Wuff Guide to Travelling with Dogs.
We have travelled extensively in France with Les Quatre Cavapoos and encountered ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS other than a few ticks and an incident of overheating that was quickly mitigated by a dunk in a lake.
France is a safe and wonderful place to take your dog. The risks are low and with a little knowledge and care, easily avoided. So;
Do you want to catch up on our travels over the last three years? They are now immortalised in print!
- Year 1: Fur Babies in France – From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream
- Dog on the Rhine – From Rat Race to Road Trip
- Dogs ‘n’ Dracula – A Road Trip to Romania