We’re all going on a summer holiday!

Dog on a sandy beach

As the holiday season comes upon us once again many of you are planning on taking your pets abroad this summer. We wanted to give you a quick update and some tips for travelling with your pets.

UK pet travel has increased since the Pet Travel Scheme relaxed in 2012 going from 140,000 dogs travelling each year to 287,000 in 2017. This increase in travel combined with the increased movements of European parasites and the insects that carry them means that our pets are at an increased risk of encountering an exotic parasite and bringing it back home or sharing it with their owner!

Before even thinking about travelling there are some legalities which must be completed for all dogs, cats and ferrets travelling between the EU/non – EU listed countries and the UK.  Unfortunately, with the “Brexit” situation it is hard to know if these will change in October, but current requirements involve:

  • Microchip – this must be implanted before a rabies vaccination is given and much be scanned every time the patient is seen for anything to do with the Passport
  • Vaccination against rabies must be performed at least 21 days before travel. Pets must be at least 12 weeks old when they are vaccinated and 15 weeks old when they travel.
  • EU pet passport required – this will be issued by an Official Veterinarian on the day of or shortly after the rabies vaccination has been given.
  • Travel must be with an approved transport company on an authorised route.
  • Dogs entering the UK (and also Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta) must be treated for tapeworm by a vet with a product containing praziquantel not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours before the animal arrives on UK soil.

As well as the legal requirements there are some other aspects to consider.

  • Transport – The pets must be transported by an approved route and carrier if going by air or boat these can be found at www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/approved-routes. Some pets find travel stressful and the air pressure changes associated with flying makes this mode of travel unsuitable for the flat faced breeds or for any patient suffering from respiratory disease, cardiac disease or high blood pressure.
  • Heat tolerance – Flat faced pets overheat very easily and sometimes it is actually a nicer and safer holiday for them to stay at home. That said any pet may overheat without adequate air conditioning or ventilation. Water should also be available at all times.
  • Sunburn – we remember to cover ourselves in sun cream on holiday but do we remember the pets?  THey should have sun cream applied to sensitive areas especially the exposed skin, ear tips and nose.

Pets travelling abroad will encounter many parasites not seen in the UK.  Unfortunately, only one is dealt within the legal requirements of the passport, and even that one is not covered very well. 

Tapeworm: E.multilocularis is a zoonotic tapeworm which means it can affect humans as well as animals. In can form liver cysts in humans and fatalities are recorded every year in Europe.  To prevent spread to the UK there is a requirement to have a vet administer a tapeworm treatment between 24 hours to 5 days before returning to the UK.  However, exposure after treatment could still mean your pet brings this parasite home with them.  Therefore, it is also advisable, due to the lifecycle of the worm, to medicate the pet 30 days after return, or if you are lucky enough to be spending a long period of time abroad to give a worming tablet every 30 days while travelling.

Heartworm: Dirofilaria immitis, is spread across southern Europe and the south of France. It is also now known to have spread into eastern European countries such as the Balkans, Romania and Bulgaria. This spread is a concern for the UK as there is a chance it will continue to travel towards us. The best ways to protect against heartworm is monthly treatment with a milbemycin containing wormer and limit the possibility of exposure to mosquitoes as mosquito bites can transmit disease.  This can mean using collars or spot on treatments and avoiding outdoor activity at peak mosquito feeding times such as dawn and dusk. We are happy to help advise on which products will work best for your pet.

Leishmania: We also have a population of dogs that have travelled and some imported dogs who have become exposed to Leishmania infantum.  This is a protozoal infection which affects cats and dogs but again has the potential to spread to humans. This disease is spread mainly by sandfly bites but it can occur also though dog fights and blood transfusions. The geographic spread is mainly France and southern Europe. If a patient becomes infected with the disease it is a lifelong incurable disease and the treatment carries mixed prognosis.  As such, preventative measures are vital for dogs travelling to these areas. Sandflies feed at night with the greatest activity at dawn and dusk, so it is best to avoid activity at this time. These insects are also bad flyers so it is a good idea to sleep animals upstairs to help avoid bites. If camping then breezy outdoor spaces are advised.  Insecticide-impregnated bed nets can be purchased to help protect them. Finally, there are also some spot-on treatments and some collars which can be used to help protect the pets.  Any spot on should be applied 1 week prior to travel. Again we would be happy to talk through all the treatments and preventions which are the best for you and your pet dependant on the holiday you are going on.

Tick-Borne Diseases: Travelling pets may also come into contact with ticks, there is now no legal requirement for the pets to be treated for ticks but the European ticks do carry a variety of tick-borne diseases not currently present in the UK (but that may be changing with the presence of Babesia in Essex). The ticks are spread across the whole of Europe and therefore it is very important to protect any travelling pet. We would strongly advise that any travelling pet uses a tick treatment which has a known kill time of fewer than 24 hours as most diseases take this long to transmit, also that you check your pet often when away and are confident with how to remove a tick. We are happy to chat this through and chose a prevention protocol suitable for you.

In summary, it is important to remember that the passport alone does not protect your pet while travelling but armed with the right information we hope you keep your pets and your family safe both while travelling and after.  That way the whole family get to enjoy your travels!

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