The government Pet Travel Scheme P.E.T.S. has been in place since 2000, and between 2000 and 2004, more than 240,000 animals have travelled under the regulations avoiding the 6 month statutory quarantine regulations upon re-entry into the UK. The scheme is designed to protect us from exotic diseases not currently present in the UK, of prime concern to the scheme is Rabies. This virus is easily transmitted in the saliva of affected animals (dogs, cats, bats, farm animals and wildlife), it typically makes affected animals aggressive and so passes the virus on. It is infectious to humans and is difficult to treat if not detected early. It is sometimes recommended to euthanase suspected animals before tests confirm disease because of this risk to people. The Rabies vaccine is very effective in dogs and cats. Whilst Western Europe, such as France, is largely free from Rabies, Eastern Europe still has large numbers of outbreaks and it is also prevalent in countries such as Germany.
Other conditions are also prevalent in the various countries covered by P.E.T.S, some of which include:
- Tick-transmitted diseases: Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis are the 2 most common blood parasites transmitted to animals, the diseases are not common in the UK but are present across Europe and also in USA. Symptoms vary from lethergy, fever and anorexia to bleeding disorders, anaemia, coma and death. P.E.T.S. is aimed at preventing the condition from entering the UK. Anti-tick treatments are generally used such as Stronghold, Advocate and Frontline. Probably the most effective prevention is daily/twice daily inspection of the animal for ticks, followed by direct application of Frontline Spray and the use of a Tick Hook.
- Roundworms: Heart worm - Dirofilaria immitus - is a large worm that can grow up to 30cm, the adult lives within the main blood vessels of the heart and lung. Symptoms range from mild lethargy and coughing to death from heart failure. Once the worm has reached its adult stage in the vessels, it is very difficult to remove. Treatment relies on regular worming with a product effective against the juvenile worms such as Milbemax, Stronghold and Advocate. Treatment should be started at least 10 days before travel and continue for 30 days after the last exposure to disease. The worm is transmitted by mosquitoes and can occasionally be transmitted to people.
- Leishmania: This is a protazoal disease transmitted by biting sand flies in Southern Europe, from the South of France downwards. It typically affects dogs but can infect people and cats. Treatment is very difficult and often cure is impossible, even in people; euthanasia in animals is often the end result. Control of this disease relies on thorough use of fly repellents such as Citronella and DEET for people. Products such as Scalibor Collars and Advantix are available for dogs. Unfortunately, there is no 100% effective repellent available and none are safe for use on cats. Prevention for cats is possible only by keeping cats in at dusk and dawn when the flies are most likely to bite, although some species of the fly will also bite during the day. A new vaccine has been generated to help protect dogs against leishmaniosis, which has been shown to be 92.7% effective. The vaccine can be given from 6 months of age. 3 doses are required initially, with a 3-week interval between them. A yearly booster is then required to maintain immunity. This vaccine cannot be given at the same time (at least 2 weeks apart) as the normal vaccines.
- Tapeworms: Eccinococcus multilocularis is a tapeworm that lives as an adult in predators such as dogs. The eggs are passed in the faeces of infected animals and typically invade herbivorous species such as sheep. The eggs grow into infectious cysts within the host and infect a new predator when this host is eaten. The disease is of most concern as the eggs from dogs are infective to humans and will form cysts within us. Multiple cysts will form within organs such as the liver and are very difficult to treat as they can behave like cancerous growths and are difficult to surgically remove entirely. Treatment consists of regular effective worming of dogs and cats against tapeworms. We do not want this disease to become common in the UK.
- Cytauxzoonosis is a similar parasite that affects cats in Africa and USA, control should be focused on early detection and removal of ticks.
If your pet has travelled to infected countries, there is a blood test available to see if they are carrying the protozoal parasite.
The guidelines for travel under PETS are constantly updated so it is essential to get the most recent information via the government department DEFRA (contact details at bottom of page). The basic requirements are as follows:
- The animal must be implanted with a microchip for identification.
- A rabies vaccine is administered.
- The PETS passport can be issued once the microchip and vaccine have been done and amendments can be made at a later date, all amendments MUST be done only by an OVS (Official Veterinary Surgeon).
- The animal cannot return to the UK before 3 weeks from the date of the Rabies vaccination.
- Before returning to the UK, the animal must receive tick and tapeworm treatment and the passport signed to this effect by a veterinary surgeon within 5 days of your return.
For further information, visit the DEFRA website. The BSAVA website also contains excellent information for pet owners. Check the 'Travel' section under 'Client Information' on our website for further details.