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Travelling with pets

28 May 2017

Since the relaxation of the pet passport regulations in late 2014, more people than ever are choosing to take their pets with them when they travel abroad rather than leaving them at home. For many people, this has been a welcome relief from the stress of kennelling their dogs and being separated from them for long periods of time. But what is a pet passport, and how do you get one?


Travelling with pets


A pet passport works in a similar way to a normal passport in that it permits an animal (dog, cat or ferret) to travel to certain countries abroad, within the remit of the pet passport scheme. The scheme covers all EU countries and certain non-EU countries, a list of which can be found on the www.gov.uk website. Different rules apply to pets travelling to/from countries outside of the scheme.

In order to obtain a pet passport for travel within the scheme, a pet must:

  • First be microchipped (if this is not already done)
  • Then have a vaccination against rabies
  • After a wait of 21 days, the pet passport becomes valid and the pet is allowed to travel

For countries outside of the scheme, the rules are different and may require a rabies blood test after the vaccination, and a longer waiting period. Regulations for travel much further afield, e.g. to Australia/New Zealand, can be extremely complicated (not to mention costly!) and preparation can take over 6 months. It is therefore important to notify us as soon as you are aware that you may be travelling.

On the way back into the UK it is very important to remember that dogs will need to be treated for tapeworms. This must be done by a vet between 24-120 hours before arrival in the UK, and signed off in the passport. Failure to do this may result in costs associated with re-treating and keeping the dog in quarantine on arrival.

Regardless of where you are planning to travel, it is always advisable to contact DEFRA as soon as possible to check the requirements for the country/ies you will be visiting.


Travel sickness

Many people will be able to empathise with this problem; some pets find the experience of travelling long distances (especially by car) very unpleasant. Travel sickness in pets can be caused by a ‘classic’ motion sickness, but is also sometimes associated with other stimuli e.g. anxiety about the car and the whole travelling experience. We tend to think that if symptoms of nausea, e.g. excessive salivation, licking lips, vomiting etc, occur very rapidly when the animal is put into the car, anxiety is more likely to be the problem.


Travel sickness


For anxious animals, a programme of desensitisation is likely to be most helpful – this works by giving your pet as many positive associations with the car as possible. You can try feeding them in the car while it is parked with the engine off initially and, once they are comfortable with this, build up gradually by switching on the ignition and then starting to take very short trips around the block. Eventually you will hopefully find that you can start making short trips to places with positive associations e.g. the park, so that they do not learn that a trip in the car normally means the vet! Always praise calm, relaxed behaviour – try to avoid giving your pet too much ‘reassurance’ when they are displaying anxious behaviours as they will interpret this as a cue from you they are right to be worried. If they do seem anxious, behave as normally as possible yourself and maybe temporarily step the desensitisation back a stage or two until they are relaxed again.

Genuine motion sickness requires a slightly different approach and very good medications are available to suppress the nausea and unpleasant sensations associated with this. If you think your dog is in need of medication, especially for longer car journeys, please contact us and we can advise you. Generally we will need to ask you to bring your pet in for an examination and then we will be able to recommend the most appropriate therapy.


Travel sickness


Remember: NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car, especially as the weather gets warmer, as they can very quickly overheat. Always travel with a water supply and bowl for your pets on longer journeys and offer your dog frequent opportunities for drinks and toilet stops.