Arun Veterinary Group

Travelling abroad with your pet

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It has become much easier to travel abroad with your pet. However, if you wish them to come back into the UK there are strict guidelines to follow. These are in place because of the presence of disease elsewhere in the world which we don’t have here in the UK. They not only serve to keep your pet safe but also prevent the spread of disease to the UK pet population.

Infectious pet diseases abroad

Taking your pets abroad, whether temporarily or permanently, can expose them to illnesses and diseases not present in the UK. Such diseases include:

Rabies – This extremely dangerous virus is transmitted in saliva though a bite from an infected animal. It is zoonotic (can spread to people) and is almost always fatal though this can be treated in humans if caught early enough. Rabies affects the neurological system with symptoms worsening over time to include behavior changes (most notably aggression), seizures, disorientation, paralysis, coma and ultimately death. There have been no known cases of rabies in the UK for over a century although it is still a serious problem in much of the rest of the world. Vaccination is highly recommended for all travelling pets and compulsory if you wish to bring them back to the UK. Rabies affects all animals.

Leishmaniasis – This is an infectious disease which is transmitted by sand flies to dogs, especially in southern Europe bordering the Mediterranean, in countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. A dog can be bitten up to 100 times in an hour during the peak sand fly season from May to September. Symptoms present with hair loss, fever, weight loss and skin sores. The disease can progress to cause multiple organ damage. It is an incurable disease, complex to treat and fatal without attention, so prevention is the best way.

Heartworm – As the name suggests, this is a parasitic worm which lives in the heart of the animal. Although it can affect cats, cases are rare and they naturally have resistance to the worm. In dogs however, it is far more dangerous. The adult worms damage the blood vessels and heart, causing coughing, weakness, weight loss and eventually heart failure. Symptoms can take years to manifest. The larvae of the worm live in the bloodstream and are transmitted by blood-sucking mosquitoes. Unfortunately, treatment of the disease can be almost as dangerous for the dog as the heartworm itself, which is why prevention of the disease when abroad is so important.

Babesiosis – This is a serious tick-borne (transmitted by ticks) disease in dogs which destroys their red blood cells. Symptoms include fever, anaemia, lethargy, high temperature, blood in the urine and jaundice. It can take up to three days before the feeding tick transmits the infection. It is a potentially fatal disease and some dogs die within a few days of showing signs.

Erlichiosis – This is another tick-borne disease affecting dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, fever, coma, anaemia and the dog’s blood clotting ability is compromised. The disease is most often fatal and some dogs die within a few days of infection. Although dogs of all ages are at risk of the disease, some breeds appear to be particularly susceptible, such as German Shepherds.

Disease prevention

Prevention is better than cure and this is most definitely the case with these infectious diseases. There are vaccines available to help prevent rabies and leishmaniasis. Prevention of the other diseases (heartworm, babesiosis and erlichiosis) is targeted towards the carriers of the disease – sand fies, mosquitos and ticks. Monthly administration of worming and spot-on medications will hugely reduce the risk of the parasites biting your pet. It is also advisable to keep your pets indoors between dusk and dawn when abroad as this is when the parasites are particularly active. In the case of the tick-borne diseases, it can take anywhere between 12 hours to three days to transmit the disease. We recommend a “tick check” once or twice daily while abroad, and remove any ticks as soon as possible. Use of products that repel ticks are also advised following tick removal.

PETS passports

Travelling to and from qualifying PETS countries is possible once the appropriate PETS passport has been issued. This allows dogs, cats and ferrets to return to the UK without the need for quarantine.

To be issued with a PETS passport your pet must:

• be over 12 weeks old
• have an identification microchip
• be vaccinated against rabies

You may travel 21 days after the rabies vaccination. Rabies boosters should be given every 1-3 years (and not a day over) depending on manufacturer but each country has its own rules on frequency of vaccination – we recommend you contact DEFRA to ensure you know the rules of the destination country.

To cross the border back into the UK there is a statutory requirement for dogs to have a veterinary certified tapeworm treatment between 24 and 120hrs (1 to 5 days) before embarking on return travel. For trips of up to 4 days duration, this treatment may be done at one of our surgeries prior to departing. This must be a product containing praziquantal (we can advise which products are suitable). It is no longer necessary to get certified tick treatment to travel home, but we would strongly recommend tick protection while abroad to prevent the tick-borne diseases mentioned earlier.

Travelling to and from non-listed countries

Not all countries are in the PETS passport scheme. You will need to contact DEFRA to confirm the requirements of pet entry into your destination country.
To enter the UK from an unlisted country, your pet must:

• have an identification microchip
• be vaccinated against rabies
• have a blood test at least 30 days after rabies vaccination to verify immunity (travel back to the UK is permitted 3 calendar months after the blood sample is taken)
• have an official veterinary certificate from the other country
• dogs must have tapeworm treatment (as described above).

If you have any questions, please ask a member of the team and they will do their best to help.

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