Travelling abroad with your pet

With the advent of the PETS passport scheme reducing its requirements for travel to the EU, we should have a look at some of the potential hazards. Whilst it is great for many people that they can now holiday with their cats, dogs and ferrets we must also bear in mind that we need to protect our pets that we holiday with and those left at home.

The PETS scheme no longer requires the treatment of your pet for Ticks before re-entering the UK. But it is important to know what diseases the Ticks can spread.

Tick borne diseases

Babesiosis

This is transmitted by certain ticks and is found in Southern and Central Europe, but is starting to move north as climate change is occurring. There’s a map here.

When the tick feeds it injects the animal with the Babesia organism. These then multiply in the animal’s red blood cells.

This causes;

  •                 Fever (high temperature)
  •                 Weakness
  •                 Lethargy
  •                 Weight Loss
  •                 Loss of appetite
  •                 Red/dark brown Urine
  •                 Jaundice (yellow colouration to the skin)

Without treatment this condition can rapidly lead to death.

Diagnosis is via a blood test and treatment involves very specific drugs along with blood transfusions and supportive care in severely anaemic dogs.

Ehrlichiosis

This is present in many countries in Southern Europe, there’s a map here. When the tick bites it again injects the organism into the bloodstream of the dog.

The main problem with the disease is the symptoms can vary widly to include;

Depression

  •                 Fever
  •                 Swollen Lymph Nodes
  •                 Bleeding into the eyes
  •                 Bleeding from the nose
  •                 Bleeding into the skin (bruising)
  •                 Bleeding into the body cavities

It can also include;

  •                 Severe vomiting
  •                 Nasal discharge
  •                 Lameness
  •                 Uveitis (Inflammation of the eyes)

These symptoms can progress to neurological symptoms including convulsions.

The diagnosis is made with a blood test.

Treatment once the diagnosis is made is with antibiotics in the early stages but they are less likely to respond well if the disease has been present for some time.

Hepatozoonosis

This is mainly seen in dogs rather than cats. It is relatively widespread, there’s map here.

It is caused by a protozoan parasite; in this case the dog grooms itself and swallows the ticks. Many dogs can have the disease and it remains subclinical (they show no signs of disease) but if they have any type of immune-suppression then they will often be affected by the parasite.

It is diagnosed by a blood test.

Treatment often involves drugs not available in the UK.

How to avoid these diseases

  1. Avoid tick rich habitats – like wooded areas and where there is livestock
  2. Use spot on medications, collars or sprays to prevent your animal acquiring ticks or to kill them before they can cause disease. There are several products available that we can go through with you at a pre-travel check up. Make sure you start any preventative treatment before you travel.
  3. Check your dog daily for ticks and remove any you find with proper tick remover.
  4. If your dog shows any sign of illness take them to a vet and be sure to mention that they have travelled abroad. It is also worth mentioning that you should check your pet insurance as some policies do not cover illnesses that occur due to travel abroad.

Leishmaniasis

This disease is spread by infected sandflies. It occurs throughout the tropics and especially the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. There’s a map here.

Sandflies surprisingly live in wooded areas,  rather than sandy areas.

The disease is caused by another protozoa. The parasite has some of its lifecycle in the sandflies gastrointestinal tract.

The most common symptoms are skin inflammation and infection. This condition is sadly fatal if left and even with treatment the animal remains permanently infected. The incubation period for Leishmaniasis can be weeks or months after the dog has been by an infected sandfly

The diagnosis can be made by a blood test but it is often made by a biopsy of the skin lesions . Again if your animal develops skin lesions remember to  tell us that they have been abroad even if it is not recently.

How to try and avoid Leishmaniasis

  1. Avoid high risk areas/countries.
  2. Keep your animals inside from 1 hour before dusk and until 1 hour after sunrise.
  3. Use insecticides inside to control flies.
  4. There are sandfly repellents available in collar and spot on form available from us and we can discuss which would be most appropriate to your situation at a pre-travel check.
  5. Start the sandfly repellent treatment 3 weeks before you travel and continue whilst abroad.

Heartworm

This disease is mainly seen in dogs although cats can be at risk. It is spread via certain species of mosquitoes.

The mosquito injects the larvae of the worm into the dog when it bites. These then develop, get into the major blood vessels head towards the heart.

The symptoms include;

  •                 Weakness on exercise
  •                 Weight loss
  •                 Right sided heart failure
  •                 Or sudden death from bleeding into the lungs.

Once the dog is infected the treatment the treatment is difficult and can also be dangerous. The disease is normally diagnosed with a blood test.

How to try and prevent Heartworm

  1. Avoid mosquito rich areas, there’s a map here.
  2. There are spot-on preventative treatments available that should be started 3 weeks before the animal travels and at least a month after their return. We can advise you on the right one for your animal size.
  3. If any of the symptoms occur remember to inform us that your pet has travelled.

Canine Brucellosis

This is a zoonotic bacteria (ie can be transmitted from animal to man).  It can cause miscarriages and stillbirth in pregnant bitches and sperm abnormalities in male dogs. It is found in the United States of America, Canada, South America, Asia, Africa and more recently Eastern Europe. It is very rarely passed to man (it is always important to remember to have good hygiene in any mating or birthing area and keep any bitch that has a stillbirth or miscarriage separate from the rest of the animals).

Treatment involves long term antibiotics but is not always successful.

Diagnosis is via a blood test.

Rabies

This is a zoonotic virus that affects most mammals including humans. It is usually transmitted by one infected mammal biting another mammal.

The rabies virus targets the nervous system and once symptoms appear it is almost always fatal.

The United Kingdom has been officially rabies free since 1922.

Echinococcus multilocularis

This is a tapeworm that your dog can catch whilst abroad and although your dog will probably be symptom free this is also a zoonosis. It causes a potentially fatal infection in the lungs in humans. The tapeworm is not in the UK and therefore it is EU law that your dog must be treated with a wormer containing praziquantel between 24 and 120 hours (1 – 5 days) before returning to the UK. This treatment is not needed if the animal is travelling from Finland, Ireland or Malta.

The New requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme

  1. Identified  with a microchip.
  2. Have an up to date vaccination against rabies.
  3. Have an EU Pet Passport issued by a Vet
  4. Wait 21 days after the rabies vaccination
  5. Travel  into the UL on an approved route (See DEFRA’s website here)
  6. Dogs must be treated for tapeworm 24 – 120 hours before arrival into the UK/