Month: July 2018

‘Walking dandruff’ (Cheyletiellosis)

Cheyletiella infection is a form of mange that is also known as rabbit mites and walking dandruff. This is an itchy skin condition caused by small parasites living on the skin surface. The mites can be found on many animals including dogs, cats and rabbits and can be transmitted from pets to people. Early recognition is important as the condition can be simply treated.

The condition is caused by infestation with a small mite. This mite lives its whole life on the skin of a furry animal. Although the mites are small they can just be seen with the naked eye or a magnifying glass and may appear like small white flakes of skin that can move – hence the name ‘walking dandruff’.

Most healthy animals seem to have some immunity to infection and the majority of affected animals are old, young or unwell. It is most commonly seen in puppies bought from pet shops or breeding centres. Boxer dogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels appear to be more at risk than other breeds. Puppies most commonly become infected from their mother in the first few weeks of life.

Often the first sign noticed by owners is excessive scurf or dandruff formation on their pet’s skin. This may be accompanied by scratching and later small spots can develop. Occasionally owners are more severely affected than their pet and may themselves have itchy red patches or spots on their skin.

The mites causing cheyletiellosis can move between animals and can cause itchy red lesions on people as well as pets. Lesions in people are generally very itchy and tend to affect arms, neck, chest and abdomen. Infection is most easily spread to people from cats and rabbits rather than dogs. If infection is controlled in pets the lesions on people will settle down after a few weeks with no specific treatment.

The condition is relatively easy to diagnose because the mites can easily be seen under a microscope. Small samples of skin or hair can be examined and mites and eggs will be seen in an active infection. The mites feed on the skin surface and eggs are laid on the hairs or skin surface. The previous application of flea sprays or drops may reduce the number of mites making diagnosis more difficult in dogs.

Mites can be killed by the application of topical drops that kill parasites. Your vet will be able to prescribe this for you and tell you how to use it effectively. Since the infection can spread between animals, all animals that have regular contact with the infected individual should be treated at the same time (even if they are not showing any signs of disease). A number of treatments may be required over several weeks.

There is no product specifically recommended to kill any mites in the environment, e.g. pets’ beds and carpets, but an environmental flea spray may help in this respect.

Skin fold pyoderma

Pyoderma means bacterial infection within the skin. Usually this occurs within the top layers of the skin (superficial pyoderma), and is a common medical problem in dogs. Deep pyoderma, when infection penetrates further into the skin, is much more serious and may take months of intensive treatment to cure.

Skin fold pyoderma is a common, usually superficial, infection which occurs where two layers of skin fold over one another, creating a warm, moist environment where bacteria can flourish. Pockets of skin are very prone to infection due to the closed environment. Once infection takes hold, it tends to progress rapidly due to poor ventilation and the problems encountered in keeping the area clean. Food residues and bad teeth may compound the problem around the mouth.

This type of skin problem occurs commonly in certain breeds of dogs, particularly those with lots of loose skin, e.g. Sharpei, Spaniel, Bassethound, Pekingese and Boxers. Certain body areas are more commonly affected especially around the face, feet, lips, tail-base and vulva. Obese animals are more likely to suffer with the condition due to excess tissue folds.

Dogs with an infantile vulva – a small vulva in a relatively ‘tucked up’ position – commonly get skin fold pyoderma in the surrounding area. This may be difficult to see without close examination and may be very painful to examine in the conscious dog. Infantile vulva may be more common in bitches spayed at a very young age.

In some animals areas of moist, reddened skin with discharge and unpleasant odour are easy to see. But, often the condition may not be visible until the fold of skin is stretched open, revealing the infected skin within. Dogs may also show other signs:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Irritability
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Rubbing the face
  • Licking at the feet
  • Excess rubbing and licking at the bottom area

Medical treatment, using drugs of various types, often leads to an initial improvement in the condition. However because the skin pockets remain, future recurrence is quite likely. Drug treatments used include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiseptic washes applied to the area
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs/painkillers
  • Topical creams and ointments.

The condition is often difficult to control – it may not respond well to medical treatment or come back as soon as treatment is stopped.

Since the problem is caused by abnormal anatomy or conformation surgery can help to correct this. Surgical treatment is recommended when there is frequent recurrence. The skin folds/pockets are surgically removed, opening up the area and allowing proper ventilation of the skin and a reduction in the likelihood of recurring bacterial infection. Operations of this type include cheiloplasty (on the lips), nasal fold resection (in Pekingese) and vulvoplasty (at the vulval area). In dogs with bad teeth and skin fold pyoderma at the mouth, your vet may also recommend dental treatment.

Keeping affected areas clean certainly helps. Daily bathing with a salt solution (1 tbsp in a pint of water), followed by drying, may help prevent subsequent infection. Other antiseptics, unless supplied by a vet, should not be used.

There is variation between individuals of the same breed, so some animals may be more severely affected than others. Responsible breeders should not breed from dogs which are severely affected to reduce the risk of problems being passed to the next generation. However, a great many Sharpeis have this condition to some degree due to the characteristics of this breed.

Hot spots (wet eczema, pyotraumatic dermatitis)

Sometimes dogs develop a sore spot on the skin which oozes and irritates. Often this develops over the space of just a few hours. The critical step in managing these spots is to stop the dog worrying them but veterinary attention should be sought to ensure there is no underlying condition that needs treatment. In most cases early treatment results in a rapid resolution of signs.

Wet eczema is also known as ‘hot spots’ and your vet may refer to it as ‘acute moist dermatitis’ or ‘pyotraumatic dermatitis’. It is caused by infection in the surface of the skin. Bacteria are present on all dogs’ skin but in order to cause infection they must break through the skin barrier. This can occur when there is damage to the skin either through changes in the skin itself or scratching by the dog.

Once the skin barrier is penetrated the bacteria can grow and this infection causes intense itchiness and the dog scratches the site resulting in further damage and spread of the sore.

It is normally clear when a dog has wet eczema. The sores are usually obvious as they most often develop on the face and the flanks. The skin sores in this condition are extremely itchy and affected dogs are unable to leave them alone. You will see your pet continually licking or scratching at the same site on their skin. The skin sores look red and ‘angry’ and exude a moist clear discharge which has a very unpleasant smell. If the sore is left alone then the exudates may dry and crust on the surface.

Some breeds of dog (especially Labrador retrievers and St Bernards) appear to be prone to developing wet eczema. However, it can be seen in any breed. Younger dogs also appear to be at greater risk of developing wet eczema, although once a dog has had one episode of wet eczema they are likely to be prone to subsequent episodes later in life too. Wet eczema is more common in summer months and particularly if dogs have dense or matted coats.

Wet eczema is triggered by an underlying skin problem and often it is caused by the dog scratching due to itchy skin. The itchy skin condition can be due to allergy (e.g. atopy), fleas, ticks or other parasites, irritation from an ear disease or anal sac disease or from the presence of a foreign body in the skin, e.g. a splinter, grass seed or thorn.

Irritation by a drop-on anti-flea treatment or other liquid that the skin was exposed to either intentionally or unintentionally is sometimes a cause. Continual wetting from bathing, swimming or drooling are possible causes. Damage from blades during clipping is also a consideration.

Wet eczema is usually caused by another skin disease so your vet will want to identify any potential cause – the condition will not clear up unless the underlying disease is properly treated. Your vet will check to see if an underlying disease is present and if so this can be treated at the same time as the wet eczema.

Sometimes, other skin diseases such as burns, deep bacterial infections, ringworm (dermatophytosis), calcinosis cutis or some tumours can have the appearance of wet eczema and so it is important to confirm the diagnosis in case a different treatment is needed. Clipping the surrounding fur, skin scrapes and cytological examinations and full-thickness skin biopsies are all useful tests that may often be helpful. Further tests are necessary in some situations.

The most important factor in management of wet eczema is to stop further trauma to the skin. The dog must be prevented from licking or scratching at the site – depending on the site of the sore a Buster or Elizabethan collar may be necessary. If the dog is scratching at the sore then bandaging the foot may help to reduce the amount of damage done. However, the affected area should be left open to the air whenever possible as this drying effect is very beneficial in the healing process.

Hair should be clipped from the sore skin and from the area surrounding the sore patch. Often the sores are much more extensive than they appear initially but clipping should be expanded continue until the whole affected area is exposed. The skin can then be bathed and dried.

Your vet may prescribe some antibacterial shampoo or cream to rub into the wound. but in most cases this is not necessary. However, in more severe cases, (particularly if the underlying skin disease is difficult to control), steroids or antihistamines may be required to reduce itchiness and antibiotic tablets given to control infection.

If your pet has had wet eczema it is quite likely that this will recur. Risks can be reduced by keeping the coat short and clean with regular bathing. Extra attention should be paid to flea control. Regular grooming will allow you to identify any skin diseases or wet eczema lesions early.

Atopy

Living with an itchy dog is no fun – but being an itchy dog must be worse! Atopy affects around 1 in 10 dogs to some degree. In dogs the condition can cause a variety of signs: skin disease, runny nose, itchy eyes and (very rarely) asthma. If your dog persists in licking its feet or has recurrent ear or skin infections, it may have atopy. As a general rule itchy skins do not resolve without treatment; so if your dog is scratching an early visit to your vet is advisable. Itchiness is not normal, nor is it a habit.

Atopy or ‘atopic skin disease’ is a genetically-predisposed tendency to develop an allergy to environmental allergens. The most common allergens are house dust mites, storage mites, pollens (grass, weed and tree), moulds, skin dander and less commonly dietary proteins. In allergic animals, the immune system over-reacts to contact with these foreign substances causing inflammation that leads to itchiness. Dogs display this irritation by rubbing, licking, chewing, scratching and biting themselves or scooting along on their backside.

Dogs with atopy are born with the potential tendency to develop significant allergic responses. As the dog comes into contact with more and more allergens in its normal life, these allergies start to develop. Most dogs with atopy start to show signs between 1 and 3 years of age. It would be very unusual for a puppy younger than 6 months to develop signs of atopy. If your puppy shows signs of itchiness before this age it is most likely that there is another reason for it.

Some breeds of dog are far more likely to develop atopy than others and if there is a history of atopy in your dog’s family then they are more at risk of developing signs.

Your dog may have atopy if it suffers with recurrent ear or skin infections that clear up with treatment but then come back some time after when treatment stops. The body sites typically affected in dogs with atopic dermatitis are:

  • the face and ears
  • between the pads of the feet
  • in the armpits or groin area.

If your dog is forever licking at or rubbing one or more of these sites, even if you cannot see any skin lesions, make an appointment to see your vet. Typically dogs with atopy start off with seasonal disease. However, in subsequent years the skin disease will often start earlier and last longer.

If you can answer yes to the following questions there is a high chance that your dog may have atopy.

  • Was your dog younger than 3 years old when it first showed signs?
  • Is the dog mostly kept indoors?
  • Was the itchiness present before you noticed skin lesions?
  • Does your dog have reddened front paws and are the inner surface of the ear flaps affected?
  • Are the margins of your dog’s ear flaps unaffected?

Your vet should also begin to suspect that your dog has atopy based on a history of recurring skin or ear infections, particularly if these clear up over the winter and come back the following year. Atopic dogs with light-coloured coats often have brown, saliva-stained fur in sites where they lick constantly.

If your vet thinks it is likely that your dog has an allergic skin condition they will want to do some other tests. But firstly your vet should ensure that regular, prescription, ectoparasite control has been used and they may prescribe treatment to clear up any secondary skin infections.

If the symptoms are not seasonal, then your vet must recommend a strict, food elimination trial for several months. Feeding your dog a specific, truly hypoallergenic diet helps to rule out a food reaction as the cause of the itchiness.

If your dog is still itchy after all this treatment, and the diet trial, then referral to a specialist dermatologist for intradermal skin testing should be offered. Under light sedation, an area of skin over the body wall is clipped and prepared. Tiny volumes of allergens are injected into the skin and your dermatologist will monitor the reaction to these allergens in the skin to decide which are likely to be causing itchiness. Depending on the intradermal test results it may be possible to treat the condition with allergen-specific immunotherapy.

Yes. The main priority for treating atopic dermatitis is to reduce all the factors that may cause the skin to be inflammed. It is very distressing for a dog and owner when a dog is scratching all the time. The management options currently available are listed below and the combination that works for your dog needs to be tailored specifically for individual conditions:

  • It is often possible to reduce the dog’s overreaction to allergens by the use of allergen specific immunotherapy (desensitising vaccines). These injections must be given over a period of some months and in over two-thirds of dogs these help to reduce the severity of the allergy. If you are considering desensitisation you will have to be patient – improvement may not be seen for around 9 months after the course of injections starts. Following that monthly lifelong injections are required, and it is rare for the condition to be controlled without the need for other managemental or medical interventions.
  • It will be important to take particular care in preventing parastic infection. Atopic dogs are prone to sarcoptic mange infection and also more likely to become allergic to fleas.
  • Complete diets, with higher levels of essential fatty acids, may assist with control of skin conditions. Of course it is important also to avoid any dietary allergens that were implicated during the food trial.
  • Regular cleansing of the coat, ears and paws to mechanically clear surface allergens, assist wth natural skin cell shedding and improved skin barrier function will be beneficial.
  • Common recurrent yeast and bacterial infections must be controlled – ideally with regular medicated washes and ear cleaners.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, both systemic and topical (sprays, gels, shampoos and rinses), should be employed when necessary on top of all the above strategies.
  • Other drug therapies may also be needed – steroids are cheap, but potentially have many side effects. Cyclosporin A has few significant side effects though is comparatively expensive. Antihistamines are usually cheap, with few side effects, but are invariably ineffective.

It is very rare for dogs with atopy to be cured or grow out of the problem. In fact they generally have more severe episodes each year. However, in most dogs the condition can be controlled by careful, diligent management.

If it has been possible to identify the specific allergens involved in your dog’s case, by intradermal and/or serological testing, then it may be possible to avoid things that are likely to cause reactions in your dog. For example, if your dog is allergic to pollens it may help to keep them inside when the pollen count is high or when you are mowing the lawn.

Elimination of house dust mites is difficult but regular hot washing of the bedding plus annual environmental spraying can help kill mites. Dogs with house dust mite allergy may benefit from preventing access to bedrooms, soft furnishings and carpets.

If you have any concerns about our dog contact your own vet for further advice.

Anal furunculosis (perianal fistulas)

Anal furunculosis (also called perianal fistulas) is a distressing condition commonly affecting German Shepherd dogs and occasionally other breeds. The problem is one of chronic deep infection, inflammation, discharges and ulceration around the tail base and anus. The condition may progress to involve a large area around the back end of the dog. It can be very difficult to cure or control but recent advances in treatments are proving encouraging.

No-one really understands what causes the condition to develop. It is more common in dogs with the broad tail base and low tail carriage typical of German Shepherds. This conformation may result in poor ventilation and increased humidity of the anal area. Faecal bacteria may persist in this environment increasing the risk of infection of hair follicles and hormone glands in this area.

Underlying problems with the immune system may also play an important role. The disease has also been linked to inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. If your dog has diarrhoea they may be at more risk of developing anal furunculosis.

Anal furunculosis is very irritating and dogs with this condition will frequently lick their hind end. You may notice that your dog shows discomfort or difficulty when passing faeces. Other signs of illness such as weight loss irritability or depression due to pain are seen in severe cases.

The tell-tale signs are of matted hair, odour, bleeding and discharges from the anal area. However your dog may not let you look closely if the condition is very painful. It should be possible for your vet to make a diagnosis of anal furunculosis from looking at the diseased area (but they may need to sedate your dog for close examination). In a few cases biopsies are needed to be certain of the diagnosis.

This is a difficult disease to treat and although several types of treatment are available none is 100% effective. The diseased tissue can be removed at surgery – often, extensive treatment is needed and this may need to be repeated. If extensive surgery is performed there is a risk of nerve damage which can result in incontinence. Some surgeons advocate amputation of the tail to improve ventilation or removal of the anal sacs.

Recently, encouraging results have been achieved using drugs designed to alter the function of the immune system, and this may prove to be a very effective treatment for anal furunculosis.

Yes, check with your veterinary surgeon first, but many dogs with anal furunculosis are greatly helped by hydrotherapy. This involves the use of a shower attachment or garden hose to direct water over the affected area under the tail once or twice a day. The water should be lukewarm or cool, under moderate pressure.

Start gradually and gently and build up as your dog gets used to this treatment. For this to be effective, each session should last at least 15 minutes. A tail bandage applied to the tail will stop this getting too wet. This treatment can have a very good effect if carried out diligently every day.

Controlling symptoms is a long-term process in many cases. New treatments are being developed, but relapses may occur and permanent treatment can be needed. Anal furunculosis is well known as a difficult and sometimes frustrating disease to treat. Recent treatments have shown encouraging results but euthanasia may need to be considered if your dog is very seriously affected or if your dog’s temperament makes home treatment difficult. More than most diseases, this one calls for a high level of commitment and extreme vigilance on the part of owners. Bear in mind that long-term treatment can prove expensive.

Whilst anal furunculosis can be a frustrating and difficult condition to treat it is important to seek help as soon as possible. If the condition becomes widespread it can be impossible to control. As there are a number of different treatment options it is important to discuss your dog’s problem with your own vet so that you can work out the most appropriate course of action for you and your pet.

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.

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.

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

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

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.