At the Ark Veterinary Centre we are able to provide cats, dogs and ferrets with the relevant paperwork required to travel outside the UK.
The Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) was introduced in 2000 to allow the UK and some other European countries stricter travel controls than the rest of the European Union. In 2012 it was updated in line with EU regulations, and again in 2014. The present requirements are:
- To travel within the EU (including the Republic of Ireland) the animal must be chipped before vaccination against rabies (they cannot be vaccinated under 12 weeks of age). They must wait 21 days before travelling, and must travel with an official passport signed and stamped by an approved official veterinary surgeon. If the animal is not travelling with the owner, there must be written authorisation from the owner.
- Outside the EU, the animal must also have a blood test taken 30 days after the rabies vaccination to prove immunity and then wait 3 months before travelling.
In both cases the animal must be treated with tapeworm medication 24-120 hours before reentry into the UK (or Finland, Ireland, Malta and Norway).
The only species that can travel under PETS are dogs (excluding wolfdogs), cats (excluding Bengals and Savannahs), and ferrets.
The Pet Travel Regulations are in place to protect HUMANS. If you are travelling abroad with your pet, there are many diseases that we do not have in the UK that we would advise you take measures to protect your pet against.
Hydatid disease (echinococcus granulosum) – this tapeworm infects dogs and is usually picked up from them eating the raw carcases of sheep, cattle, horses or pigs. They produce few symptoms in the dog but can be transferred to humans where they lead to the development of hydatid cysts. These are slowly enlarging fluid filled cysts which produce pain and potentially physical obstruction or pressure on surrounding organs. They develop over a period of months to years. If the cyst ruptures, “daughter” cysts may be released that spread elsewhere in the body. Most cysts develop in the liver or lungs.
Fox tapeworm (echinococcus multilocularis) is present in many places in mainland europe . It is spread by rodents and voles and can infect both foxes, cats and dogs. Although again it has minimal clinical signs in cats and dogs, it too can be passed to humans where it causes cysts in the lungs. These are more aggressive than the hydatid cysts and can even be fatal.
The tapeworm treatment before reentry into the UK is to try and prevent these parasites becoming endemic in the UK. If you are staying in Europe for more than 1 month we recommend that you treat your pet every 4 weeks to protect it against these dangerous tapeworms.
Heartworm (dirofilaria immitis)
Dirofilaria immitis is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from animal to animal through the bites of mosquitos. The most commonly affected animal is the dog (hence it is often called dog heartworm), but it can also infect cats, foxes and ferrets. There are more than 70 different species of mosquitoes that can transmit heartworms, some of these species are already present in the UK.
When an infected mosquito bites an animal, it injects larvae through the animal’s skin. These larvae mature and migrate through the body, reaching the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery within 65 days. Here they grow into adults with the female adult worm reaching about 30 cm in length, and the male about 23 cm. Seven months after infection, the adult worms have mated and the females begin giving birth to live young, called microfilariae. These microfilariae circulate in the bloodstream for as long as two years awaiting another bite by a mosquito. Now they can infect that mosquito and mature within it over the next 2 weeks, becoming ready to infect the next dog. Microfilariae cannot mature into adult heartworms unless they pass through a mosquito.
Severely infected dogs, over a period of time, can end up with several hundred heartworms within their hearts and the blood vessels in the lungs. Adult worms in dogs usually live up to 5-7 years. These can cause blockage of the right side of the heart and will lead to heart failure. The only treatment at this stage is the manual removal of these worm, which involves open heart surgery. If you use chemical treatments to kill the adult worms, the dead worms cause an allergic reaction within the dog which is often fatal.
To prevent your dog becoming infected with heartworm, if you are travelling to an area where the mosquitoes are infected, you will need to use monthly treatments. It is recommended that you start treatment 1 month prior to travelling and continue for 1 month after you return. We are happy to discuss with you all the options for preventative treatment.
Leishmaniasis is the medical term used for the disease condition that is brought about by the protozoan parasite Leishmania. Leishmania is endemic in many European countries and in regions around the mediterranean. The disease can develop in 2 forms in dogs: a skin reaction (cutaneous) and an internal organ (visceral) reaction. The visceral reaction is also known as black fever and this is the most severe form of leishmaniasis.
The infection is acquired when sandflies transmit the protozoan parasites into the skin of a host. The incubation period from infection to symptoms is generally between one month to several years. In dogs, it invariably spreads throughout the body to most organs. Kidney failure is the most common cause of death, and almost all infected dogs will develop visceral or systemic disease. As much as 90 percent of infected dogs will also have skin involvement. There is no age, gender, or breed predilection; however, males are more likely to have a visceral reaction.
The clinical signs of a visceral reaction are, severe weight loss, poor appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting, exercise intolerance and bleeding (from nose and into the intestines). With the cutaneous form the most common symptoms are thickening and loss of pigmentation of the skin, and chapping of the muzzle and footpads. There may be loss of hair with nodules and ulcers in the skin, and enlarged lymph nodes. Infection is chronic and lifelong.
Drug therapy is used in infected dogs to slow progression of the disease and reduce the potential infectiousness of the animal. It improves clinical signs by reducing the parasite loads within infected tissues. However, there is no drug therapy or treatment regime that has been shown to eliminate infection.
As well as being a debilitating and potentially fatal disease in dogs, it is also transmissible to humans with equally severe clinical effects.
Prevention – as there is no effective way of killing the protozoa, prevention is aimed at stopping the sandflies from biting. Topical insecticides are the most effective way of doing this and we are happy to advise you on which ones are most appropriate for your pet.
There has recently been a vaccine developed for this disease. It will give partial protection against leishmania infection and clinical disease in dogs, but there is no authorised vaccine that offers full protection against infection and disease. Therefore we strongly recommend that you use topical protection on your dog whether they have had the vaccine or not.
Ehrlichia canis is a bacterium that leads to Ehrlichiosis, a disease most commonly associated with dogs, but occasionally seen in humans. The bacteria is transmitted by a bite from the brown dog tick (rhipicephalus sanguineus). Brown dog ticks become carriers of the organism when they take a blood meal from an infected dog. Stored in the gut and salivary glands of an infected tick, the bacteria is transferred via the saliva of ticks carrying the organism to hosts during blood meals.
Upon introduction, the bacteria penetrates into the white blood cells of hosts. Clinical signs of disease may develop acutely or may not be seen for many months. Clinical signs of disease are widespread and variable, inflammation within the eye (uveitis), inflammation within multiple joints (polyarthritis), anaemia, bleeding, fever, breathing problems and vomiting.
Diagnosis is confirmed with serial blood tests over 1 month, and treatment is a 4 week course of doxycycline (however this may not fully eliminate the parasite).
Prevention involves using products to protect your dog against ticks
Babesiosis is a malaria-like parasitic disease caused by infection with Babasia, another type of protozoal organism. This organism is again introduced by a tick bite (most frequently ixodes ricinus), usually a few days after the tick starts feeding. This time the organism infects the red blood cells. There are several different types of babesia with a slight variation in clinical signs, but those seen most commonly include, fever, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, anaemia, low platelet count, jaundice and blood in the urine.
Diagnosis is based on repeat blood tests to identify the exact type of babesia infection and then appropriate treatment can be started. Although some animals respond well to therapy, others may only get clinical improvement but don’t always clear fully.
Borreliosis is more commonly known as Lyme disease and you can find more information on the Lyme disease page.
One tick may carry more than one disease and multiple infection results in much more serious clinical signs. So although PETS does not insist on tick prevention on animals returning to the UK, we do recommend that your pet is fully protected against ticks for the full duration of your trip. Tick prevention should be started at least 7 days before travelling and the ones with repellant action are more effective. As well as this you should check your dog daily for ticks, as nothing is 100% effective. If you come across any ticks attached to your dog, remove using a tick remover and always wear gloves. Never squeeze the body of the tick or you may increase the number of protozoals injected into your dog.