Preparing for the Move to Portugal

How to Travel to Portugal with a Pet

I’ll be talking about how to travel from the United States with a pet, specifically dogs and/or cats, in this article. Dan and Angie are bringing their dog, Possum, and Kellie and I are bringing our cats, Katie and Smokey.

Certain rules must be followed, and the rules I’ll be discussing are current as of 2020.  Further information on moving to Portugal can be found in the Files section of the private Facebook group, Americans & FriendsPT.  Request to join the group to access the files.

The information in this post is from the file “Bringing pets to Portugal: 2020 Guidelines,” by Susan Korthase.  Find detailed information on this website, for the US Department of Agriculture Aphis offices with links to the necessary forms.

Prepare Your Pet to Move

All countries in the European Union, including Portugal, require the pet to have a microchip.  Once in the EU, a pet passport can be issued for travel between most of the EU countries.  A current rabies vaccination is the only requirement for your pet to travel between the member EU countries.

Microchip and Rabies Vaccination

The first thing that your pet will need to travel from the U.S. to Portugal is a microchip.  Get the microchip before your pet gets a rabies shot.  It must be an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip.

If your pet already has a microchip but it’s different than this type, you will need to do one of three things. Bring your own chip reader, call the arrival airport in Portugal to see if they have a compatible chip reader, or have your vet implant a new chip.  If the pet gets a second chip, both chips must be documented with the numbers of the chips and the dates of implantation.

Your pet must have a rabies shot.  If it will be your pet’s first rabies shot, or if the prior shot has expired, be sure to get it at least 21 days before travel.  There is no waiting period before you fly if it is a booster shot. Be sure that the rabies shot is given after a microchip is implanted AND before the previous rabies shot expires.

For dogs, a tapeworm treatment will not be necessary to enter Portugal.


Your pet will need a health certificate to travel to Portugal.  There are two types of certificates, one for accompanied travel (non-commercial transport) and one for commercial transport. 

Commercial transport includes pets that do not travel within 5 days of the owner(s), more than 5 dogs, cats, or ferrets which are traveling (with or without the owner), or there is a sale involved in the transport.  I’ll not be discussing commercial transport in this article.

Non-Commercial Transport of Pets

For accompanied, non-commercial transport, a licensed veterinarian will need to fill out the non-commercial EU health certificate for Portugal.  You can find this certificate in the files section of the Americans & FriendsPT Facebook group. Do this within 10 days of transport.

The veterinarian must be accredited by the USDA, and the certificate must be endorsed by the USDA.  You will need to have this certificate within 10 days of travel. If you live near an office of the USDA in your state, call to see if you can drop it off in person. If you can’t, or if there’s no USDA office near you, it’s better to send the certificate to the USDA office in your state by FedEx rather than regular mail. Include a pre-addressed, postage-paid return FedEx envelope.

If you use a military Veterinary Corps Officer or a GS-0701 series civilian government veterinarian employed by the military, the certificate does not need to be sent to the USDA office for endorsement.

For puppies and kittens, rabies shots in the U.S. cannot be given before 12 weeks of age. After vaccination, they must wait 21 days before they will be allowed in Portugal.

“Banned Breeds”

Portugal permits the so-called “banned breeds” (Brazilian Fila, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Japenese Tosa Inu, and Pit Bull Terrier). They must be spayed or neutered.  If they are pedigreed, an exemption may be granted. 

Owners of these breeds must sign a Statement of Responsibility if one of these dogs is to stay in Portugal for less than 4 months, or a Notification document if the dog will be moving permanently to Portugal.

Airline Regulations

The policy concerning pets may vary for each airline, but one thing is true about all pets.  You need to call your airline before you book to let them know you will be traveling with your pet(s).  There is a cost to bring your pets with you, and it varies by airline.  Also, most airlines only allow a certain number of animals in the cabin.

For smaller dogs or cats, the pet may be able to fly in the cabin.  Each airline has different dimensions of under-seat storage, so check with your airline. Transport your pet in an airline-compliant carrier (generally soft-sided for in-cabin transport). The carrier must have a waterproof liner, secure zippers, and ventilation on all sides.

Larger pets will need to be transported in the cargo/baggage hold in a hard-sided carrier.  The airlines have specialized people to handle the animals in cargo.  If you have any questions or concerns, call your airline.

Before departure, you MUST notify the veterinary office at your arrival airport by email the time of arrival at the airport.  The veterinary office will send you an email with instructions, details of any documents they need, and payment information. If you don’t receive a reply, presume they didn’t get your email and resend it.

Travel Tips for going Through Security with Your Pet

If your pet(s) will accompany you in the cabin, they must go through the TSA checkpoint with you.

All pets must arrive at security in a carrier.  Once you are ready to go through security, remove your pet from the carrier and hold it as you go through the scanner.  The carrier will be screened just as your carry-on bags are.

The TSA officer will swab your hands for explosives. Return the pet to its carrier once the screening process is done.   Please do this away from the line of people going through security so you don’t hold up others from retrieving their carry-ons and also for the safety and comfort of your pet.

Arriving in Portugal

Accompanied pets must enter Portugal directly or through another EU country and they must arrive at the Border Inspection Posts at one of the international airports in Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Funchal, Ponta Delgada, or Terceira Island).

Dogs and cats must not show evidence of any communicable disease when they are inspected upon arrival at the veterinary office. If they appear sick, they will be required to have a veterinarian check-up, at an additional cost to you.

Since you let the veterinarian office know in advance your arrival time, there will be someone at the office to meet you.  They should have copies of any information you sent them in advance.  Bring extra copies, just in case.  They’ll look at your pet’s passport/health info, give them a quick check, and scan your pet’s microchip.  You must pay for this before your pet will be released.  Some offices will only accept cash, so be prepared with enough Euros, if necessary. 

Settling Into Your New Home

Once you get to your new home, find your local veterinarian’s contact information.  Most professionals, especially those under 40 years old, can speak English.  You should check in with your local vet, let the office know of your pet(s) arrival.

Be aware that in many areas, especially outside of the cities, dogs tend to bark loudly at night.  Also, some dogs may hunt for small animals, so please bring your cats in for the night.

There are many mosquitoes and other biting insects in Portugal, and in some areas, your dog may contract a type of malaria that is unique to dogs.  This is a treatable disease.  Pulvex Spot is a medicine to help cut down on the number of bites from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and horseflies.

Due to the climate in Portugal, your animal may suffer from heatstroke.  Be sure not to leave pets out in the heat all day, give them plenty of water, provide shade, and never leave your pets in a car.

Beware of the threat of other animals such as snakes or processionary caterpillars.  These caterpillars can give a painful illness to your pet or possibly cause death.

If you plan to use your dog for hunting, the dog must have a check-up by the vet before hunting season, and the dog must have a valid hunting license.

Other helpful Hints

Get your pet(s) used to the carrier before travel.  Unhappy pets may fidget and cry out during the long flight causing a disturbance to other passengers.  Also, it will make it easier to get your pet in and out of the carrier for the TSA security checkpoint.

Know how your pet reacts to a busy airport or being around many strangers. You may want to acclimate your pet to a lot of people before travel by bringing the animal in the carrier to crowded areas near your home.

Before getting to the security checkpoint, bring your dog to a pet relief area to allow it to relieve itself. 

The Plans for Our Cats

For my cats, I plan to bring a collapsable litter box with some litter in a zipper bag. I will have harnesses on my cats so I can control them while I let them out to relieve themselves between flights. By the time we get to Portugal, they will have been in the carriers for nearly 24 hours so letting them out of the carriers in Newark for a while will help them a lot. I’ll do the same once we get through customs in Portugal, too.

My daughter and I will get a ride to the Albany airport with our 6 or 7 pieces of luggage, a backpack, and 2 cat carriers. We’ll fly into Newark, but the overnight flight will be several hours after we arrive. We plan to meet my brother and his family there (with their dog) and fly to Portugal together.

Practice Makes Perfect

Even though we aren’t leaving for almost two years, I already bought the cat carriers, the portable litter box, the harnesses with leashes, and two collapsible water bowls. Can you tell I’m excited about going to Portugal?

The first harnesses I bought were a bit too big. Both cats were able to work their way out of the harnesses easily. It was a riot watching them wiggle and roll around on the floor until they got out. But those harnesses just wouldn’t work for us.

The smaller harnesses I ordered arrived so I tried them out. Again, it was hilarious to see them try to get out, but this time, they were unsuccessful.

Both of them are indoor cats and have been their entire lives (Smokey is 15 and Katie is 10 now, in 2020). There was no need for me to introduce them to the harness before now. I want to let them out of their carriers for a while in Newark, so they have to get used to them. 

Since they both like jumping into boxes, it shouldn’t take long at all to get them used to the carriers.

Neither cat has a microchip, so that will be done in the summer of 2021 along with their rabies shots.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Join our newsletter by filling out the form below.

Please contact us if you have any comments or questions about this article or any of our other posts.


  • Karen Michelle

    Great plan….

    Were going spring of 2021 with our 10 pound bichon Elsa Marie…. We are planning on renting first in Algarve probably …..

    Hey are any other vaccinations required besides rabies?…:

    Thanks hope to meet your lovely family over there one day.. Namaste

    • Alecia Chesery Ramsey

      Thanks for the question, Karen.

      No, there aren’t any other vaccinations that I’ve found that are needed for dogs. Just rabies.

      We’re planning to move to Coimbra at least for the first year, but we’ll be exploring the rest of the country during that time. Perhaps we can meet for coffee when we get there.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *