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Thanks to Mike Hall from BRAID VETS EDINBURGH
International pets
The World is a shrinking place. Brits travel all over on holidays, or for work, and more and more people want to take their pets with them. Vets in practice are now frequently asked to assist with pet travel. However, just as with the human population, there are certain disease risks associated with travel that have to be addressed. In the UK we pride ourselves on being Rabies-free and, believe me, that’s the way we want to stay! We have one big advantage over our fellow Europeans – we are an island, so we have a very effective barrier to keep Rabies out – and a number of other diseases too.
Historically, any animal entering the UK had to spend six months in quarantine, to ensure that it was not harboring Rabies. Only after six disease-free months could the animal then settle in our country.
Since 2001 however, Pet Passports have been available for dogs, cats and ferrets(!). These passports enable animals to travel between participating EU countries without the quarantine requirement, providing that certain criteria are met.

  • The pet must have a Microchip. This enables it to be identified and related to its paperwork.
  • The pet must then receive a Rabies vaccine – a single injection of vaccine, given painlessly under the scruff of the neck, conferring protection that lasts for up to three years.
  • A passport can then be completed, listing the owner’s details, the animal’s details, the microchip details, and the rabies vaccine details. Once a pet has a passport it can be updated, with further Rabies vaccinations being recorded in it. This way, one passport can last the lifetime of the pet.
  • For European travel there is a minimum 21day delay after Rabies vaccination before the pet can travel.
  • Travel can then be arranged, by road through the Channel Tunnel, by sea – certain Ferry companies, or by air – certain airlines.
  • When returning to the UK, pets must have treatment against Tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis. This must be given by a vet, 24 to 120 hours prior to entering the UK, and the treatment needs to be recorded on the pet’s passport. This is a parasite that is currently not present in the UK – and is another disease we definitely do not want!

Providing these requirements are met, pet cats and dogs can now travel freely with their owners throughout the majority of EU countries. Pets can enjoy the foreign holiday with their owners, rather than perhaps being booked into a very plush cattery in the gorgeous East Lothian countryside!
It all seems very simple and straightforward. It can be, but there are other considerations to be made. The Pet Passport takes account of only two diseases – Rabies and Tapeworm. It does not consider the fact that pets taken abroad will be potentially exposed to a number of parasites and diseases that they would not meet at home. For instance, hot Mediterranean climates will harbor mosquitoes, and biting insects such as ticks, that may carry a number of potentially serious diseases.
When the Pet Passport was first launched, it included a requirement that pets were also treated against Ticks prior to re-entering the UK. This requirement was dropped however, in 2012. Up until this time there was also a requirement for a Rabies blood test to be carried out. The test was done 3-4 weeks after the Rabies vaccination, and the level of antibodies was measured, to assess whether the pet was protected or not. On January 1st 2012 both requirements were dropped.
A number of vets believe that these moves are not in the nation’s best interests. The Rabies bloodtests would occasionally show that a pet had not responded to the vaccine and therefore was not protected. In these cases, a second dose of vaccine was give]n, followed by a second bloodtest. If the pet “failed” again then it was deemed ineligible for a Passport.
There are certain ticks in mainland Europe that we do not have in the UK, and they can carry diseases that will affect not only pets, but livestock, and people too. We don’t want these ticks to bring disease into the UK so, whilst it is not an essential part of the Pet Passport legislation, vets strongly advise that pet dogs and cats travelling to mainland Europe are treated with appropriate insecticides that will prevent Tick infestation.
It is also possible to transport our pets farther afield than the EU. Pet Passports will not be sufficient, and every country will set its own import requirements. If you are considering long distance travel for your pet then I would highly recommend that you speak to your vet well in advance so that she/he can guide you through the minefield that is Pet Export. The procedure may need to start as far away as six months prior to the travel date, with bloodtests or even faecal tests required, and may involve some quarantine time on arrival, so do not consider it lightly.
Perhaps, indeed, if your upcoming longhaul foreign work journey is not for good, that cosy cattery in East Lothian is sounding even more attractive!

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