BSAVA has prepared a poster to help inform owners of the health and welfare implications of taking their pets abroad.
Tick and Tapeworm Controls
Ticks carry a range of diseases that can affect both humans and animals. Some of these diseases (such as Lyme Disease) already occur in the UK, while others are much more prevalent in parts of Europe (see section on diseases risks abroad). Tapeworms are common in the UK and rarely cause problems. However, in parts of Europe there is a particular tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) which, although it does not cause illness in your pet, can cause a serious illness in people (alveolar echinococcosis).
It is therefore important, for both your pet’s and your own health, to provide your pet with protection while you are away as well as complying with any regulations for re-entry into the UK.
Rabies and Vaccination
The UK is currently free from rabies; however, it is important to be aware that rabies does still occur in parts of Europe. Even countries like France and Spain have seen occasional cases in illegally imported dogs in recent years and both Norway and Italy have reported cases. Read the most up-to-date guidance about rabies in bats from DEFRA.
It is a requirement to have your pet vaccinated against rabies before travelling abroad and it is important that any animal entering the UK complies with the regulations. If you or your pet are bitten while abroad, you should seek appropriate medical/veterinary advice.
Always think about your pet's welfare
While it may seem like a nice idea to take your pet abroad with you, it is important to think about the welfare of your pet and the possible stress caused by the journey; changes in climate while abroad and any possible disease risks. It is also important to check whether your pet insurance provides cover while abroad and whether there are any restrictions.
Visit your vet for up-to-date advice
There are regulations that need to be followed if you plan to travel with your pet. While the new regulations make travelling in Europe easier, the disease situation is constantly changing so it is important to discuss appropriate preventive healthcare before each trip.
When travelling abroad, your pet may be at risk from a number of diseases that don’t normally occur in the UK, such as leishmaniasis, heartworm and tick-borne diseases. Before you go, it is important to be aware of the diseases that may occur in the areas that you will be visiting, and take advice from your veterinary surgeon on how to minimise the risk for your pet.
Leave your pet at home
Having considered all the information, you may decide that it is more appropriate to make alternative arrangements and leave your pet at home while you are away.
You can obtain information on pet travel requirements here.
If you have any questions you can contact the pet travel helpline for information:
Telephone: 0370 241 1710 Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays)
You can obtain general information on pet travel requirements here.
For OVs, please access APHA’s Vet Gateway for information on pet travel requirements.
Also, please see BSAVA news articles on our website which are regularly updated with information on Brexit & Pet Travel
If OVs have any questions, please email PetPassports.Carlisle@apha.gov.uk or telephone 03000 200 301.
A taeniid tapeworm endemic in much of Europe, from central France eastwards. Foxes are the main definitive hosts and voles and other small rodents act as intermediate hosts. Dogs are easily infected and although the adult parasite produces no clinical signs in dogs, it can cause a potentially fatal condition in humans (alveolar echinococcosis).
Read more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website
Read more on the PubMed website
The microscopic eggs are infective immediately. Infection is uncommon but not impossible in cats.
In endemic areas it is recommended that dogs that have access to rodents are wormed monthly with praziquantel. It is also important to advise clients that the eggs can also be found in the dog’s coat especially if it becomes contaminated with fox faeces. It should also be remembered that dogs will need to be treated for tapeworm before re-entry into the UK.
Although the requirement to treat pets for ticks before re-entry into the UK has been removed the need to treat them before travelling abroad has not. While both ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) are present in the UK, there are also species of tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and diseases (e.g. Erlichia canis, Babesia canis and Hepatozoon spp.) which are not. While the majority of ticks are found in pasture and woodland, it should be remembered that R. sanguineus can be found in domestic environments such as homes and kennels.
Acaracides should be applied before travel, animals should be checked regularly and visible ticks removed. It should be remembered that frequent water exposure may reduce the efficacy of the acaricidal product and products should be reapplied in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Other vector-borne diseases
Leishmaniasis is an infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a protozoan parasite common in Mediterranean coastal areas and transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies. Despite the name, which relates to their brownish colour, the flies are found in woodlands and crevices in old buildings. The sand flies are active from May to October and feed mainly at dusk and dawn. Prevention involves avoiding the sand flies and the use of insect repellents such as those containing synthetic pyrethroids (do not use in cats), although repellents alone cannot be relied upon to prevent disease. A vaccine for dogs is now available in the UK.
Dirofilaria immitis (heartworm) is a nematode worm endemic in Mediterranean areas. Dogs are the primary definitive host; however, the cat is a susceptible if not ideal host. Microfilariae are spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes during feeding and the larvae migrate to the pulmonary artery and adjacent areas where they develop into adult worms. Many mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the parasite, including species present in the UK. While the synthetic pyrethroids have some repellent effect on mosquitoes, these should not be relied upon and preventive treatments such as Milbemycin or Selamectin should be given throughout the mosquito season, starting one month before exposure.
Rabies in Europe is predominately sylvatic rabies, with wildlife species, especially the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) accounting for approximately 80% of all rabies cases. While many western European countries have successfully controlled rabies in wildlife through the use of oral vaccination programs it should be remembered that sporadic cases do still occur, usually in illegally imported animals.
Risks to humans
While travelling pets will be protected by vaccination, it is important for clients to realise that they will not be and to get immediate treatment for any bite wound. It is also important to stress to clients the importance of not deciding to rescue strays of unknown health status as this risks introducing a number of diseases into the UK. Read more about rabies risks on the Public Health England (PHE) website here and the risk by country here
It is likely that the changes in the regulations will increase the number of pets travelling between the UK and Europe. This coupled with the loss of pre-entry tick treatment means that we are likely to see more of the “exotic” diseases mentioned above. While the risk of rabies entering the UK is still considered to be very low, and most likely to be brought in by an illegally imported animal, it would be wrong to be complacent and we must remain vigilant. Rabies is a notifiable disease and any suspect case should be reported immediately to APHA here. The suspected animal should be kept isolated and restrained along with any other animals that which have had contact with the suspect case. A veterinary officer will normally come to the practice immediately and will manage the investigation.
Classical rabies was eradicated from the UK in 1922. The last case of rabies in an animal outside of quarantine in the UK was a dog in Camberley in 1970. The last case of rabies in quarantine was reported in 2008. The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was launched in 2000 to allow people to bring in or travel with their pets, while ensuring the UK remains free from rabies and certain other exotic diseases. In total, 752,945 pet animals have entered the
UK under PETS since 2000 (ferrets have only been able to enter under the scheme since July 2004), and there have been no cases of rabies in any of these animals (Defra 2010). However, since 2001, nine rabid dogs have been illegally introduced in France, and all but one of these was imported from Morocco through Spain. Illegally imported dogs continue to pose a risk of rabies in otherwise rabies-free regions and both Italy and Norway have reported cases of Rabies in wildlife (see recent outbreaks).
It is thought that our island status makes it unlikely that terrestrial rabies will be re-introduced through wildlife and that the largest risk for rabies entering the UK would be through an infected animal imported into the country illegally. Defra have admitted that the changes to the Pet travel regulations that came into effect on 1 January 2012 do increase the risk of rabies being introduced to the UK. Although the risk is still very small, calculated to be one rabies introduction every 211 years, or one rabies case for 9,809,601 animals imported; however, these figures assume 100% compliance with the regulations (V.L.A. 2010).
Defra (2010). Zoonsis Report: UK 2010. London, Defra.
V.L.A. (2010). A quantitative risk assessment on the change in likelihood of rabies introduction into the United Kingdom as a consequence of adopting the existing harmonised Community rules for the non-commercial movement of pet animals.
Rabies in bats
Cases of bats infected with one of the two European bat Lyssavirus (EBL) subtypes, EBL2, have been confirmed in the UK as recently as 2008. One of these cases resulted in the unfortunate death of a bat worker in Scotland in November 2002. EBLV is transmitted through contact with an infected bat, for example through bites, scratches or saliva. All reported cases have so far occurred in Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), a common species which often comes into human contact as it roosts in houses. Up to 8% of Daubenton’s bats carry antibodies to the virus. To date classical rabies has never been recorded in a native European bat species. You can read more here.
Defra’s Rabies Control Strategy is available here. Defra takes a precautionary approach to possible contacts with bats by bat workers and others handling bats on a routine basis as well as any incident where a member of the public has come into contact with a bat. A comprehensive range of advice is available from Public Health England (PHE) is available here, which includes recommended pre-exposure vaccination for those handling bats, and immediate precautionary administration of rabies vaccine for anyone bitten or scratched by a bat. ). Specific advice on pre-exposure prophylaxis is available here
Advice for veterinary surgeons dealing with bats
- Veterinary staff dealing with bats on a frequent basis should be vaccinated against rabies (see below). Handling of bats should where possible be limited to those staff that have been vaccinated
- Bats should always be handled with protective gloves. Latex gloves are suitable for the smaller species and light leather gloves such as driving gloves with disposable latex gloves on top are suitable for the larger species
- A suitable field guide (e.g. A Field Guide to British Bats, Greenaway and Hutson, 1990, Bruce Coleman Books, Uxbridge) should be used to familiarise staff as to the different bat species
- All bats acting strangely and Daubenton’s bats in particular should be handled with extra care.
- Suspicious cases should be reported to relevant government departments at local level – information is available here.
- If bitten or scratched by a bat, wounds should be cleaned with soap and water or a suitable disinfectant and medical advice sought
- Information on the need for post-exposure treatment can be obtained here
- The Veterinary Laboratory Agency carries out surveillance of submitted bat carcasses. All dead bats (not just suspected rabies cases) should be submitted to the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies, APHA, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB.
Rabies vaccines can be obtained from General medical Practitioners (GPs
Advice to clients
Clients should be discouraged from handling or approaching sick, injured or trapped bats. Assistance should be sought through the Bat Conservation Trust helpline on 0845 130 0228 or in Scotland, the Scottish SPCA (03000 999 999) or the Scottish Natural Heritage Batline on 01463 725000.