Taking Your Dog On Holiday

Claire Dunling

When your pooch is practically family it seems natural to take them away with you on holiday. Although, there are a few things to take into consideration before you start packing. Especially if the beach you’re heading for is overseas.

Pet travel scheme

The introduction of the pet travel scheme (interchangeably known as PETS and Pet Passport) has allowed hundreds of thousands of pets to leave the UK to enjoy an overseas holiday and re-enter with their owners without a stay in quarantine. To qualify for the pet travel scheme, pets must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, blood tested for rabies immunity levels (6 months before re-entry to the UK) and be treated for ticks and tapeworms 24-48 hours before re-entry to the UK.

For the full, and somewhat Kafkaesque, rules surrounding getting a pet passport, permitted routes, transports and even non-EU-countries that can be visited see the Pet Passport site. Or ask at your local vet’s as they’ll need to do a lot of the paperwork and so are used to the rules and regulations.

That pets are free to travel is all very lovely but the Pet Passport scheme is primarily aimed at human disease prevention and does nothing to prevent your dog from developing serious and often fatal exotic diseases.

There are three primary canine health concerns when visiting Europe:


This is a serious zoonotic infection (which means it can be passed easily between species) that is transmitted primarily by the biting sandfly. The incubation period can be years, so the onset of the disease may not be obviously related to taking your dog on holiday. Classic clinical signs of canine leishmaniasis include  kidney failure, lameness, nosebleeds, scaling skin disease and weight loss. There is no cure for leishmaniasis in dogs and post-treatment relapses are frequent. It transmitted by  sandlfy which feast on both dogs and humans. As sandlfies are not found in the UK’s temperate climate (at least at the moment, although as weather patterns change this situations may alter) they do not present a threat at home. To minimise the risk of infection whilst taking your dog on holiday in areas where sandflies are common there are a few simple steps: keep your dog indoors after dusk until dawn, use mosquito nets and close windows and consider using an insect repellent (eg Scalibor) collar.

Babesiosis and ehrlichiosis in dogs

Both of these are spread to animals by biting ticks. Babesiosis causes illness within days or even hours leading to a rapid onset and fatal anaemia. Ehrlichiosis in dogs is a ‘milder’ disease which can also cause anaemia via red cell destruction, as well as causing a blood clotting disease which presents as nosebleeds. To protect your dog them daily for ticks and carry a tick removing hook, always wear gloves to prevent being bitten yourself and remember to wash your hands afterwards. Of course treating them with a tick repellent spot on (eg Frontline) will help massively too.

Travelling with your dog - Royal Canin

Don't just assume your pet insurance covers overseas travel. Accidents can happen anywhere so check to be certain the dog is covered for the trip too!
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online


Heartworms are transmitted to dogs by biting mosquito’s. Heartworms cause a gradual heart failure and anaphylactic reactions. Now the symptoms of coughing, breathlessness, weight loss and collapse are very similar to heart valvular disease (which is much more commonly seen in the UK) so always tell your vet if you’ve been overseas . Prevention is so much better than cure, so talk to your vet before you leave for a mosquito risk area. They’ll be able to recommend something to help protect your dog. Again you can minimise the risk by reducing the dog’s exposure to peak mosquito times – dusk till dawn and keeping the windows shut or covered with nets.

A very real problem!

Since the introduction of the pet travel scheme there has been a greater than 10-fold rise in reported cases of exotic diseases including babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and leishmaniasis in UK dogs. Because these are not ‘native diseases’ many UK vets weren’t trained in detail about them and only have limited experience with diagnosis and treatment of them. On top of this there is no cure for leishmaniasis in dogs and while cases of heartworm can be treat, these treatments do carry risks. So while by-passing quarantine has been a welcome and humane step forward, there are significant new problems that need serious consideration before you take your dog abroad. As always prevention and planing proves to be the  best medicine – and one your dog will actually take

This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!