Category: travel

Disease risks when travelling to continental Europe

An increasing number of owners are taking their pets with them on holiday when they travel to continental Europe. This factsheet provides information on the more important novel diseases that your dog may come into contact with abroad.

There are a number of protozoal diseases found in continental Europe that can be transmitted to your dog. These diseases include Babesiosis, Leishmaniosis, and Ehrlichiosis. These diseases are rarely seen in the UK and, consequently, British dogs are unlikely to have developed any protective immunity to them. Your dog may also be exposed to a number of parasitic worms including the heartworm Dirofilaria and the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus. There also exists the small possibility of your dog being exposed to rabies.

All the protozoal diseases mentioned above are transmitted by insects. Babesia and Ehrlichia are carried by ticks and Leishmaniosis by a small biting fly called the Sand fly. The heartworm is transmitted by biting mosquitoes. Echinococcus can be caught by eating the tapeworm egg, usually in uncooked meat. Rabies is most commonly transmitted following a bite from a rabid dog or other animal.

All of these diseases, with the exception of Echinococcus, are potentially life threatening. British dogs are unlikely to have any natural resistance to these diseases and may therefore be particularly badly affected.

The areas where these diseases may be found is constantly enlarging. Some of these diseases are more common in certain places, or at particular times of the year depending on the distribution and feeding activity of the vectors (ticks and biting flies).

Canine Leishmaniosis occurs in most of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin, including:

  • Albania
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Spain

The sand fly season stretches from May/June to September/October.

Babesiosis is widespread in France and constantly evolving; it has been reported both in the South West and, more recently, in Normandy and Paris. There is a peak of disease both in the Autumn and Spring, with the condition almost disappearing during the months of July and August.

Monocytic Ehrlichiosis is an important disease of dogs in southern Europe and other areas of the Mediterranean basin.

British dogs holidaying on the continent should be protected from tick bites:

  • Dogs should be treated with a product that kills ticks before they have started feeding (within 24h).
  • This treatment should be repeated at the prescribed interval(s) for tick prevention. You may need to apply the product more often than you would if you were treating your pet for fleas.
  • A daily check should be made of your dog to identify any ticks – any ticks found should be removed immediately. You can take your pet to a veterinary practice to have this done but it may be useful to obtain training in the removal of ticks from your dog prior to travelling.

British dogs holidaying on the continent should be protected against biting flies and mosquitoes:

  • Spray your dog regularly with a licensed fly repellent.
  • Treatment with the fly repellent should be repeated at the prescribed interval(s).
  • Dogs should be kept indoors during the evening and night time to further minimise the risks from biting sand flies.

Use of a deltamethrin collar (Scalibor, Intervet) provides 5-6 months protection against ticks and sand flies.

If making regular visits to the continent you may want to have your dog vaccinated against Babesiosis. A vaccine is available in France for this purpose.

Treatment with a wormer containing praziquantel is required before returning to the UK in order to eliminate infection with Echinococcus tapeworms.

Pet passports

Pet passports are part of the European Union (EU) Regulation on the movement of pet animals. Certain non-EU listed countries may also issue a passport. Dogs travelling on Pet Passports must be treated against tapeworms before entering the UK from most countries. The treatment will be recorded in the passport.

There is an EU Regulation that sets out the requirements for the movement of pet animals (dogs, cats and ferrets) travelling within the European Community, and into the Community from non-EU countries. It also refers to importation requirements applying to rodents, domestic rabbits, birds (except certain poultry), ornamental tropical fish, invertebrates (except bees and crustaceans), amphibians and reptiles. The Regulation can be downloaded from the European Union (EU) website – see http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/carry/animal-plant/

The Passport will contain your details (as the owner) and your pet’s details, including details of its microchip number, rabies vaccination and blood test results (if required). There are also sections to record the tapeworm treatment required for entry to the UK. Only pets entering or re-entering the UK need to comply with all these requirements.

If the animal is going to an EU country and not returning to the UK, all that will be required is that the microchip and vaccination details are recorded in the Passport. Blood tests following rabies vaccination are only required for animals entering the UK from listed third countries  – see https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad

The Passport does not have a section for a “valid from” date to be recorded – the date from which the Passport can be used to enter or re-enter the UK is calculated as being 21 days after the pet was vaccinated against rabies. You must continue to have your pet vaccinated against rabies on time.

The passport remains valid provided 21 days have passed and you keep its vaccinations up to date (this is the date shown in the valid from date in section IV of the Passport).

Passports may only be issued by specially qualified vets (OVs) – so if there is no-one at your local practice who can sign the passport they should provide you with the details of a local OV. When you go to get a Pet Passport, you must take your pet, along with its microchip details and vaccination record, to the vet. Your vet may already have these details, but it is better to take them along.

Dogs, cats and ferrets will be able to enter the UK from qualifying countries provided they meet the relevant requirements. For a list of qualifying countries, visit: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/listed-and-unlisted-countries

There will still be free movement within the British Isles, including between the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, owners with PETS documents are advised to take these with them when travelling with their animal.

Other information

A new Pet travel: third country certificate can be used for the non-commercial movement of up to 5 pets from all third countries into all EU Member States, including the UK. This can be issued by official veterinarians in all third countries.

The certificate is valid for entry into the EU for 10 days from the date of issue and remains valid for a total of 4 months from the date of issue for further intra-Community travel. Further details are available at https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/listed-and-unlisted-countries

Taking your pet abroad

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows for limited movement of pets between the UK and some European countries under controlled conditions.

If you wish to take your pet abroad with you and bring it home again you must ensure that you follow all the rules.

The current requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme should be checked on the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad

At the time of writing, the requirements of the PETS can be summarised as follows:

  • Your pet must be fitted with a permanent form of identification (a microchip).
  • Your pet must have received a rabies vaccination. This is not carried out as part of the routine vaccination protocol in the UK.
  • Your dog must be treated against tapeworms between 1 and 5 days before entry.
  • Your pet must have been issued with a Pet Passport.

You are responsible for ensuring that all the relevant documentation is completed before you travel and for arranging to see a vet abroad before you return to the UK. The cost of meeting all these requirements is your responsibility.

Before you enter the UK your dog’s microchip and all relevant documentation will be checked by the transport company. If documentation is not in order your dog will be returned to the country from which it is travelling or be required to undergo 6 months quarantine before being allowed back into the UK.

Make sure you can answer yes to the following before arriving at UK immigration…

  • My pet has a microchip.
  • My pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date.
  • We are travelling to an approved country.
  • We are travelling by an approved route using an approved carrier.
  • I have a health certificate from a vet abroad to confirm treatment for tapeworm (this entry should be made in the pet certificate).
  • I have checked that additional certificates are not required by the country I plan to visit.

A pet microchip is a small implant that your vet will insert under your pet’s skin that carries a permanent identification number.

DEFRA do not specify a particular type or brand of microchip to be used.

In Europe, however, particular microchips may be required. It is therefore best to ensure that your pet has an ISO (International Standards Organisation) Standard microchip meeting specifications 11784 or Annex A of ISO Standard 11785, if you plan to take your pet abroad.

A microchip must be implanted before the rabies vaccination is given. Rabies boosters must be kept up to date. The length of the waiting period before entry into the UK is 21 days after the vaccination date. If the vaccination is in two parts the 21 days wait will be from the date of the second vaccination. For more information, visit the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/rabies-vaccination-boosters-and-blood-tests

A pet must not enter the UK under PETS until at least 21 days have passed from the date of rabies vaccination.

Pets entering the UK from non-approved countries will still need a blood test. This test is usually performed about 1 month after the last rabies vaccination – see https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/rabies-vaccination-boosters-and-blood-tests

Your vet will examine your dog before you travel to certify that it has a microchip and is up to date with rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment. He will then issue your pet with a Pet Passport.

The Pet Passport can only be completed by a specially registered vet. Only vets approved by the government (LVIs) can sign and issue a Pet Passport – so check with your veterinary practice that they have a vet who is able to complete your documentation.

In some instances it may be necessary for your vet to complete a separate certificate to show that your pet meets the health requirements of the countries you are visiting or travelling through. You should contact the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) office or Embassy of the country you are visiting for details of these requirements.

Does your pet normally live in the UK and has only visited countries these listed countries? https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/listed-and-unlisted-countries

No preparation or documentation is necessary for the movement of pets directly between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Pets returning to the UK from an increasing number of additional non-EU countries are eligible to enter the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme. An up-to-date list of these countries can be obtained from the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/listed-and-unlisted-countries

You may not bring a pet into the UK from a private boat or plane.

Your pet may travel to the UK via any qualifying country or countries. It must not have been to any non-qualifying country in the 6 months before entering the UK.

It should be noted that there are no approved routes to the UK from the following PETS countries:

EU countries and territories:

  • Faroe Islands
  • French Guiana
  • Greenland
  • Reunion

Non-EU countries:

  • Andorra
  • Aruba
  • Ascension Island
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Chile
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia Herzegovina
  • Fiji
  • French Polynesia
  • Grenadines
  • Guam
  • Jamaica (which, although rabies-free, is excluded from PETS by Jamaican law)
  • Liechtenstein
  • Mayotte
  • Monaco
  • Montserrat
  • New Caledonia
  • St Helena
  • St Pierre & Miquelon
  • St Vincent
  • San Marino
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican City
  • Wallis & Futana

See: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/listed-and-unlisted-countries

The up-to-date list of approved routes and approved carriers should be obtained from the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/approved-routes

Your pet must be treated against ticks and tapeworms between 1 and 5 days (although it is preferable if treatment takes place between 24-48 hours) before it is checked in for the journey to the UK.

The vet will sign your pet’s passport to certify that this treatment has been administered. These treatments should be recorded in sections VI and VII of the EU Pet Passport.

For further information, see – https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/tapeworm-treatment-dogs

On certain approved air routes (i.e. those approved by DEFRA to carry pets into the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme), assistance dogs can travel with their owners in the passenger cabin rather than in the hold as cargo. The up-to-date list of approved routes and carriers can be obtained from the DEFRA website.

Assistance dogs entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme must, however, meet all of the rules of the Scheme – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-travelling-with-assistance-dogs

Travelling with your dog

For most family dogs travelling is an exciting and often enjoyable experience. Dogs like to be included in whatever their family is doing and quickly learn that a car journey often leads to a walk. Unfortunately a few dogs find travelling very stressful because they feel frightened or travel sick. When taking any pet on longer journeys it is important that you are properly prepared.

If you take sensible precautions the chances of your dog becoming lost en route will be minimal but be prepared for any eventuality. Make sure that your dog is fitted with a collar and tag with your address and telephone number. A microchip implant is even more useful because it is a permanent form of identification. If the journey will be long, you may have your dog checked by your vet to ensure it is healthy before it travels. If your dog is unable to travel you will need to make alternative arrangements for it; you could arrange for your dog to stay with a friend or book it in at a boarding kennels or with a pet sitter.

Take plenty of fresh water, particularly when travelling in hot weather, and make frequent stops to allow your dog to drink and exercise. If your journey is broken for any reason, make sure there is no risk of your dog overheating if left inside the car. Try not to leave your dog alone in the car, but if this is unavoidable leave the car out of direct sunlight and with all windows open. Never leave your dog unattended in the car for any length of time – remember a car on a hot day quickly becomes an oven.

Some dogs are a little anxious when first travelling, but eventually the noise and motion of the car will calm them and most usually fall asleep. If your dog suffers from motion sickness do not feed it within about an hour of the start of the journey.

Dogs may travel in the back seat of the car, the footwell on the passenger side in the front or, most commonly, in the rear of a hatchback or estate car. Ideally travelling cages should be fixed in the rear of the car so that the rear door can be left open for ventilation when parked – without risk of your dog escaping. Be very careful when opening the car door during the journey in case your dog jumps out in excitement.

Small dogs and puppies should be transported in pet carriers. Wire or plastic crates are the best transporting devices – these can be strapped to a seat or carried in the footwells. If your dog travels on the seat they should wear a safety harness which fixes to the car seat belts. This is not only for their protection but, in the event of an accident, reduces the risk of passengers being injured by the dog.

Contact the airline well in advance to find out their rules for transporting dogs. Dogs usually have to travel in the cargo hold in specially designed travelling crates, although many airlines allow assistance dogs to travel with their handlers.

Make sure you arrive early for the flight as cargo is usually loaded first. The travelling box should be marked as containing a live animal with your contact details clearly displayed. Tape another piece of paper with these details to the inside of the box for extra safety. If your dog is going abroad contact your vet well before travelling to find out what vaccinations and health certificates it will need. It may take several months to complete necessary vaccinations, tests and paperwork before your dog is allowed to travel.

If your dog is a nervous traveller it may be a good idea to ask your vet for a sedative before going on a long car journey. Your vet will want to examine your dog first and may prescribe a drug which you can administer yourself (although they may have quite unpredictable effects).

If you are given a sedative it should be administered about half an hour before the journey and will last for up to eight hours. Do not sedate your dog before a flight because if it is drowsy it will not be able to adjust its posture for sudden movements and can be thrown around the box on a bumpy flight. There is some evidence that sedatives can be dangerous for dogs travelling in the cargo hold.

For many people travelling is a major source of enjoyment, but for dog owners whose pets suffer from travel sickness, the freedom to travel can be substantially limited.

Travel Sickness is a common occurrence often affecting 1 in 6 dogs of all ages. The typical signs of travel sickness include vomiting, nausea, drooling, restlessness, anxiety and trembling.

However, travel sickness no longer needs to be a reason to leave your dog at home – the vomiting caused by this condition can now be easily prevented by medication provided by your vet. Ask your vet if this medication is suitable for your dog.

Travelling: leaving your pet behind

International travel is becoming increasingly common for pets and the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which even allows limited movement of pets through Europe and the UK, is now fully operational. However, many pet owners still prefer to leave their pets behind when they go away.

Dogs are very much part of the family and usually like to spend time with their owners. However, travelling can be a stressful experience for some animals and many pets are unsettled in a new environment. Dogs are creatures of habit and feel secure with their routines and familiar surroundings.

When you travel on holiday you are often distracted by the new things to do and may not have enough time to spend with your pet. Many owners choose to make arrangements for someone else to care for their pets while they are away.

There are 3 choices for pet care while you are absent:

  • Place you dog in a boarding kennel
  • Ask a relative, friend or neighbour to take your dog into their home
  • Find a ‘pet-sitter’ to come to your home to care for your dog

The best solution for a dog is to leave them with a friend or have someone come and live in your house to care for them while you are away. If you cannot do this then there are plenty of boarding kennels that will care for your pet while you away. If you have more than one dog then they will usually be able to stay together in a kennel, providing company for each other.

It is always a worry having to leave your dog in the hands of strangers, especially in strange surroundings. Leaving your dog in boarding kennels doesn’t have to be stressful if you follow some of our tips when choosing a boarding kennels for your faithful friend.

  • Firstly, and probably most importantly, ask your friends and family for any recommendations for a suitable boarding kennels. If they have had a good experience then hopefully so will you and your dog. If this isn’t possible, make plenty of enquiries and visit two or three boarding kennels before you make a decision.
  • When you visit each boarding kennels, find out their opening hours and visit unannounced and ask to be shown around – this shouldn’t be a problem for them and they should be happy to take you around and show you all their facilities. Take particular notice of the quality and cleanliness of the individual kennels:
    • are they clean, dry and draught-free?
    • are the water bowls full and clean?
    • is there access to a run and covered area?
    • are they secure?
  • Take particular note of the other dogs in the kennels – do they look happy and content?
  • You should also make a note of how clean and well-stocked the kitchen area is and if there is a chart for each dog’s dietary requirements.
  • Are the staff happy to answer all your questions and do they ask you questions? This is important if they are going to enable your dog to settle in and be happy for the duration of the stay.

Ask lots of questions:

  • How often are the dogs exercised? They should be let out for a run at least twice a day to stretch their legs and play.
  • What are the dogs fed? The kennels should be prepared to feed the food you supply; your dog will feel more at home and will be less likely to get an upset stomach if his diet remains unchanged.
  • Is a bed and bedding provided? You may want to ask if your dog can have its own basket/bedding to help them feel more at home.
  • Are the dogs allowed to have their own toys? Again, this will make your dog feel more at home.
  • Can the living quarters be heated? This will be especially important if your dog is going to be kennelled in the wintertime.
  • How many kennel staff are there, and are they fully qualified? This will make a difference to the amount of time spent with each dog.
  • Are all dogs required to have up to date vaccinations including kennel cough? This is essential; no dog should be allowed into kennels unless it is fully vaccinated.

The kennel staff should also ask you questions so they can get to know your dog, if they don’t then be wary. Things they should ask you:

  • If your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date and ask to see it’s vaccination record, plus a medical history.
  • Information about your dog, for example, name, age, diet, special requirement, likes and dislikes.
  • Details of your regular vet and contact details of any friends or family that they can get in touch with in an emergency.

When you have chosen your favourite boarding kennels, why not try your dog in the kennels for a short-stay period (maybe over a weekend) to see how they get on before committing to a longer stay. When you have made your final decision, make sure you book well in advance, a popular kennels will fill up quickly.

There is an increased risk of dogs coming into contact with infectious diseases in kennels (because they are kept close to lots of other dogs). For this reason it is very important that your dog’s routine vaccinations are up to date before they go to stay in kennels. Good kennels will ask to see a vaccination certificate signed by your vet to state that your dog is fully protected against parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis, infectious hepatitis and usually also kennel cough.

If you would prefer not to leave your dog in a boarding kennel you could ask a friend or a member of your family to look after your dog while you go on holiday. If they have a dog, you could then offer to look after theirs when they go on holiday. This type of pet care/share scheme is the best way of avoiding your dog from becoming stressed and you’ll be at ease knowing your dog is in the best hands while you are away.

Some companies offering house-sitting services (where someone comes to live in your home while you are away) will also take on the care of your pets.

There are also companies that offer pet-sitting services for people when they go away on holiday. This involves someone coming to your house to feed, water and exercise your dog while you are away; good pet-sitting services will also take time out for playtime and cuddles!

It can be less stressful for your dog than putting him into kennels, but the person looking after your dog will still be a stranger and you must ensure the company you choose is registered, has good references, is reliable and responsible. Most reputable pet-sitting services will only pet-sit a dog for a maximum of 3 days duration with at least 3 visits per day, as dogs require more attention than cats or other small pets such as rabbits.

If your pet is in generally good health but requires routine medication (pain killers for arthritis or even insulin injections for diabetes) you need to take special care in choosing a carer. Many kennels and registered pet-sitters will still be happy to care for your pet and give treatment as required. You should always make sure that they know all about your pet’s medical history and can contact your own vet if necessary when you are away.

If your pet has very special needs your vet may be able to advise on whether it is wise to leave them with someone else. Some vets also have boarding facilities and may be able to arrange to care for your pet themselves if they require a very high level of medical care.

Choosing a boarding kennel

Choosing a boarding kennel
It would probably be less traumatic for most dogs to be looked after by an experienced and reliable ‘pet sitter’. Pet sitters are individuals who come to your home and stay there when you are away. They look after your dog in his or her normal environment. The majority of dog owners, however, have to rely on boarding kennels. Pet sitters are more expensive and some people may have concerns about relative strangers in their home. Taking care when choosing a boarding kennel can minimise stress for your dog, ensuring that they return home fit, healthy and happy.

In most developed countries there is some regulation of facilities that house pets for boarding. In the UK, boarding kennels have to be licensed by the local Council and the license must be on display. To maintain this license, kennels are inspected once a year and a veterinary inspection may also be required.

Licensed kennels have to comply with regulations relating to pen size, hygiene, feeding and general standards of care. However, this license relates only to a minimum standard of care. It should not be used as the sole basis on which to select a kennel.

The best way to find out about a kennel is by personal recommendation from a satisfied previous user. Ask your dog-owning friends for recommendations. If they have had a good experience, then hopefully so will you and your dog.

All good kennels encourage visits from prospective clients. This allows you to meet the owner and discuss your pet’s requirements as well as see for yourself the standards of care and welfare. It is a good idea to visit the kennels without an appointment but during normal opening hours. If you have no experience of kennels, visit two or three before you make a decision.

Overall cleanliness of the premises is a good start. The enclosures should be secure (to prevent animals escaping) and individual kennels should be separated by solid barriers to prevent spread of disease. Are the kennels draught-free? Are water bowls clean and full? Do all dogs have access to a secure run and covered area? Do the dogs already in the kennels look happy and contented?

Ask lots of questions. The staff should be happy to answer them and it is a good sign if they ask questions about your pet’s particular requirements. Find out how many kennel staff are employed and how much time they get to spend with each animal. One of the most important factors in providing a happy stay for a dog is the staff’s relationship with the pets under their care. Dogs are highly social animals and depend upon human company. It should be clear that the staff love dogs and have time to play with and groom the boarders.

Ask if there is temperature control for sleeping areas. Heating is essential in winter for pets that have been kept indoors. Air conditioning might be needed in summer. Also ask about exercise – is there somewhere the dogs can run free off the lead? If not, they should be walked several times a day.

There is always increased risk of infectious disease when dogs or any other animals are kept together in close proximity. The risk is minimised by ensuring that your dog is up-to-date with routine vaccinations and that your pet is healthy on entering kennels. Good kennels will enforce vaccination requirements strictly and will require the documentary evidence of an up-to-date vaccination card. Usually, all residents must be vaccinated against all the common and serious preventable dog diseases: distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and leptospirosis. Kennel cough, though not usually a ‘killer’ disease, is often added to this list.

Ask your vet if you are not sure what vaccinations your pet has received. Kennel cough vaccination (given by dropping vaccine fluid into your dog’s nose) does not provide protection for a long period. Vaccination should therefore be given close to the time of admission to kennels. About a month beforehand is ideal. It is also a good idea to make sure your pet is protected against fleas during their stay. Seek advice from your veterinary surgeon and, if you are in any doubt, arrange a general health check for your dog.

All kennels will be registered with a local veterinary practice in case dogs become unwell whilst boarding. If your own veterinary practice is nearby, you can ask that your pet is seen by your own vet if there are problems. Make sure you let your vet know when your dog will be in kennels and that all contact details are correct.

Many kennels will be happy to care for your pet if he is in general good health but requires regular routine medication, e.g. pain killers for arthritis or even insulin injections for diabetes. This should be discussed in detail beforehand with your vet and the kennels. For high-dependency animals, your vet may be able to make boarding arrangements within the veterinary clinic or hospital to reduce worries about serious problems developing while you are away.

Try to choose boarding kennels that are close by. If you go away frequently, always use the same kennels. Your dog will become familiar with the surroundings and may even get to know the staff. You could conduct a short trial and put your dog in the kennels for a brief period, e.g. over a weekend, to see how he or she gets on, before committing to a longer stay.

Remember to book for holiday periods well in advance; popular kennels get booked up early. Take your dog’s own bedding and also a favourite toy from home. Most dogs settle well into kennels and soon make friends with other dogs or staff. If you have more than one dog, then most boarding kennels will be able to provide slightly larger pens so that they can remain together.