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Pet Travel Abroad

Traveling abroad with your pets can be wonderful but you must ensure that you have the correct animal health or export certification. If you are traveling outside the European Union please ring DEFRA at Carlisle 01228 403600 to find out what you need to travel. Some countries require blood sampling etc. within 30 days of traveling as well as an export certificate, signed by your local veterinary surgeon, therefore you must be prepared well in advance of going away. If you are traveling within the European Union, it is much more straight forward and you can follow the directions below for the Animal Health Certificate.

The latest information can be found here:

dog travel abroad

Travel Scheme - Checklist

Traveling to most EU countries will not require any additional certification. However, non EU countries may demand an export health certificate. If you are traveling to a non EU country you should contact DEFRA export department based in Carlisle. They will send the certificate to us 10 working days before the date you intend to leave the UK. You must check whether your animal can meet the export health conditions which apply. 

Your dog/cat may not travel abroad under Animal Health Certificate (AHC) until 21 days have passed from the day your pet has been given the rabies vaccination. 

Make sure when you are arranging your travel arrangements that you state that you are taking your pet because not all travel routes are allowed to take pets.


Before returning to the UK

24 hours – 5 days before your return to the UK...

The official tapeworm treatment can be administered (and certified on your AHC) in any of the PETS qualifying countries by a vet. This treatment should be carried out 24 hours to 5 days prior to embarkation. Your pet’s certificate will need to be certified to confirm this has been carried out. Before boarding a ferry or entering the Eurotunnel, you will be required to show your pet certification which includes certification of the parasite treatment and successful rabies vaccination (unless travelling by air when these checks will be carried out at the airport of arrival). 

It is no longer obligatory from January 2012 for tick treatment but we do recommend that you do this prior to returning to the UK.

Top Tips

  • Update microchip database before travelling-update their record with your holiday details before you travel. This could help re-unite you with your pet should it go missing whilst on holiday.
  • Ensure your pet’s rabies vaccination is done on time- check the “valid until” date on your PETS documentation. You must get your animal vaccinated against rabies before this date.


The British Isles has been free of rabies for many decades. The last case of classical rabies caught in the UK was in 1902 and since 1946 there have only been 22 deaths in the UK from rabies acquired abroad. 

Rabies is still a serious problem in most countries of the world with the exception of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Isles, Scandinavia (excluding Denmark), Iceland, the West Indies and Atlantic Islands. In Europe and the United States, infection persists mainly in wild animals, for example foxes, bats, racoons and wolves, and humans are infected from contact with such animals. In contrast, in India and other Asian/African countries infection commonly occurs in dogs associated with humans. 

All rabies susceptible animals entering the UK are required to spend six months in quarantine, unless of course, they arrive in this country under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). In most countries rabies is, in fact, a notifiable disease and suspect animals must be kept in isolation. 

Who is at risk?

Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease which is almost always fatal and can infect all mammals, including humans. Dogs are the main vector for human rabies.

How is it spread?

Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal with high virus concentrations in its saliva.

Cause of rabies

Rabies virus is a member of the Rhabdoviridae – an RNA virus. Both wild and domesticated animals can act as a natural reservoir for the disease, with human infection normally transmitted from dogs, cats, rodents and wild animals like bats, foxes and skunks.

Signs and symptoms

The incubation period of rabies varies from nine days to more than a year. The delay in some cases is because the virus has to migrate from the site of initial entry into the body to the spinal cord or the brain. The average length of time for clinical signs to appear is four weeks after infection and can be seen in three phases: 

  • Phase one: Local irritation of the entry site, followed by fever, mild changes in demeanour, behaviour and temperament. Pupils will be dilated and eye reflexes slow. The sound of an animal’s bark or meow may alter.

  • Phase two: Aggression, lack of co-ordination, disorientation, seizures and fits, increased salivation and photophobia.

  • Phase three: Paralysis, excessive salivation, respiratory failure, coma and then death. 

Prevention and control

The requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) are very strict regarding rabies boosters and if an owner wishes to keep their animal registered, its vaccinations must be kept up-to-date at all times. 

Three of the four rabies vaccines in the UK have a duration of immunity of three years for dogs and cats. One is registered for ferrets. It is important to check with individual countries visited regarding their specific requirements. For copies of the leaflets and further guidance on taking pets abroad, please contact the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline on 0870 241 1710, or your vet.

Other Disease Risks in Europe

Canine Leishmaniasis

Travelling to the Mediterranean might expose your dog to a severe, often fatal disease called canine leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is a zoonotic parasitic disease transmitted through the bites of the sand flies and is the third most important disease worldwide.

Who is at risk?

All dogs that travel abroad, particularly to Mediterranean countries, are at risk of contracting canine leishmaniasis.

How is it spread?

The disease is carried from dog to dog by a microscopic parasite called Leishmania infantum, which is spread by sand fly bites. Dogs can be bitten up to 100 times an hour during the sand fly season, which begins in May and ends in September.

When an infected sand fly bites a dog, parasites are deposited on the skin. A tiny skin lesion – called a chancre – appears at the site of the bite, usually in the muzzle or the ear. The parasite then invades the dog’s cells, spreads into the internal organs and may begin to damage the immune system.

Signs and symptoms

Signs of the disease are highly variable and, in some cases, may take several years to manifest. Affected dogs may have a fever, show signs of hair loss (particularly around the eyes), lose weight and develop skin sores and nail disease. Unfortunately, over time, many organs may become involved leading to problems like anaemia, arthritis in many joints, eye and kidney disease.

Prevention and control

Treatment may be complex and often non curative, so prevention is best. You can help protect your dog from sand flies for the whole of the sand fly season, by using a collar containing deltamethrin, which also controls infestation with ticks for five to six months. There is now a vaccine available for Leishmaniasis which involves 3 injections at 2 weeks apart to start and an annual booster but these can normal boosters.


Heartworm is mostly prevalent in southern France, Spain, Italy and the Mediterranean. Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting the disease to dogs and many different species of mosquitoes can carry heartworm larvae.

Who is at risk?

British dogs could be more vulnerable as they have never encountered the disease and therefore have no resistance.

How is it spread?

The larvae of this worm (which eventually resides in the heart) are present in the bloodstream and can be transferred to an unaffected dog via a simple mosquito bite.

The life cycle of heartworm is developed in the following stages:

  • Adult heartworms reside in the right heart chamber.
  • Heartworm larvae are released into the dog’s blood and the mosquito ingests the larvae with the dog’s blood.
  • After 10 to 30 days, the infective larvae appear in the salivary gland of the mosquito, so when the mosquito bites another dog, it transmits the infective larvae.
  • The larvae then migrate around the dog’s body for about four months before reaching the dog’s heart. The larvae mature into adult worms over the next three months.
  • The process repeats itself.

Signs and symptoms

Heartworm disease is caused by damage from the adult worms once they get into the blood vessels of a dog’s lungs. The worms cause the blood vessels to swell and become scarred. As the blood vessels shrink in diameter, blood flow becomes restricted and blood pressure begins to rise. Eventually, the increasing blood pressure will lead to heart failure.

Signs may take several years to manifest and include soft cough, tiredness, weakness, loss of weight and condition. Eventually heart failure may ensue.

Prevention and control

There are products available in the UK that may be obtained from your vet prior to your trip, or from a local vet on arrival. They kill the larvae after infection. An alternative would be to use a deltamethrin collar that prevent the mosquito from taking a blood meal.

Canine Babesiosis

Particularly prevalent in France, babesiosis is a serious tick-borne protozoal disease caused by a parasite, Babesia spp., which destroys white blood cells. In Europe, babesiosis is mainly caused by Babesia canis canis and it is rare in the UK. However, the disease is being diagnosed more frequently in travelling animals, since the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) in February 2000.

Who is at risk?

The disease is seen worldwide in dogs of all ages, although there seems to be a higher incidence in younger dogs. There is a seasonal variation with a higher frequency recorded in the warmer months (September-April). British dogs are particularly vulnerable as they have never encountered the disease and therefore have no resistance.

How is it spread?

It is transmitted through tick-bites to dogs, in which they infect and proliferate in red blood cells. Ticks will feed for up to three days before they transmit infection. Susceptible dogs can die within a couple of days of the clinical signs appearing.

Signs and symptoms

Signs include fever, anaemia, lethargy, presence of ticks, high temperature, blood in the urine and jaundice.

Prevention and control

The primary goal in the treatment of babesiosis is to reverse the anaemia and eliminate or suppress the parasite. In complicated cases, additional intensive therapy is required, aimed at the particular organ affected. Blood transfusions in severely anaemic animals are not uncommon. 

If holidaying abroad with your pet, it is vital to protect your dog from ticks and check its coat every day. If you can remove ticks, within a day of attachment, the disease can be prevented. A collar containing deltamethrin also controls infestation with ticks for five to six months.


Ehrlichiosis is another tick-borne disease. Infection with this parasite can cause anaemia, immunosuppression and compromise the blood’s clotting ability. This disease is considered as deadly as babesiosis.

Who is at risk?

The disease is particularly widespread in large parts of North and South America, Europe (Mediterranean basin and the Rhone Valley), Asia and Africa. British dogs are particularly vulnerable as they have never encountered the disease and therefore have no resistance.

How is it spread?

It is transmitted through tick-bites to dogs, in which they infect and proliferate in monocytes, which leads to immune complex related diseases. Susceptible dogs can die within a couple of days of the clinical signs appearing.

Signs and symptoms

The disease recognises an acute, subclinical and chronic phase.

The acute phase starts with fever, anorexia, vomiting, swollen glands and bleeding problems (nose bleeds). This phase can take up to four weeks. Most dogs will survive this phase.

Depending on breed and immune status, a subclinical and chronic phase will follow. In the severe chronic phase symptoms like nose bleed, neurologic signs, inflamed kidneys and arthritis are seen. Most dogs in this phase will not survive. German Shepherds are very sensitive to the infection.

Prevention and control

If holidaying abroad with your pet, it is vital to protect your dog from ticks and check its coat every day. If you can remove ticks, within a day of attachment, the disease can be prevented. A collar containing deltamethrin also controls infestation with ticks for five to six months.


Echinococcus mulitlocularis

An important infection that affects both people and animals, that is not present in Britain. Otherwise known as a tapeworm it lives in the gut of dogs and when infects humans through transmission of eggs in the faeces it forms cysts that can cause life-threatening disease in humans. 

Who is at risk?

It is present in Europe and America and can affect any dogs and humans. It is not a common infection though. 

How is it spread?

It is transmitted by dogs eating infected rodent carcasses and developing tapeworms in their gut. The tapeworm will then release eggs which we can pick up after dealing with dogs faeces. 

Signs and symptoms

The dog will often not show any signs, sometimes though there may be mild weight loss. In humans it usually affects the lungs. 

Prevention and control

  • Regular tapeworm treatment which must also be given by a vet 24 to 48 hours before returning to the UK before returning to the UK as part of the PETS legislation. It you are staying for a longer period in Europe you can treat for tapeworm monthly by using tablets which contain praziquantel and milbemycin which will also protect against heartworm.
  • Avoid known severely affected tick habitats
  • Feed your pet a commercial diet and prevent scavenging and hunting behaviour
  • Specific sprays, impregnated collars and spot-on medication are available from your vet – always use these according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Start treatment at least three weeks before travelling and continue when abroad.
  • Make sure that you have an accurate weight for your dog so that the right amount of preventative therapy is administered and that you apply it correctly.
  • If in doubt, speak to your vet or vet nurse.
  • Be sure to check your dog daily for ticks and remove any that you see using a proper tick removal device
  • Consult your vet if symptoms appear, always making it clear if your dog has been to a country where these diseases might occur.


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