Foreign Holidays with Dogs – 10 Top Tips for Travellers

Dogs on the beach

Although most people leave their dogs in kennels, with friends or family, or with a pet-sitter, an increasing number of owners are taking their pets abroad on holiday with them. And who can blame them? What better way to relax than to take your WHOLE family with you! However, it’s important to remember that there are legal and practical issues to bear in mind when travelling outside the UK. In this blog, we’re going to run through our 10 Top Tips for Travellers!

PETS Passport

If you’re going abroad and then coming back, your pet will need a PETS Passport. If you don’t have one that’s fully up to date, your dog will not be allowed back into the UK and will need to spend time in quarantine. Not every vet can issue your dog with a Passport, but most of our vets are registered OVs who have the official stamp and are allowed to make you one.

Do this as soon as possible before travelling – usually at least a couple of months, in case of any delays.


It’s essential that the passport can be linked to a specific dog – so your dog has to have a microchip that works. It is of course illegal for any dog NOT to have had a microchip inserted, but it’s really important to make sure it’s still working before you travel, and certainly before your dog’s rabies vaccine.

Ask one of our vets or nurses to double check – a failed chip can mean that the  passport is rejected and your dog has to spend time in quarantine.

Rabies Vaccination

Of course, the main reason for the existence of the passport scheme is to prevent rabies from coming into the UK. Your dog MUST have a rabies vaccine given after the microchip was inserted and the Passport was issued; the vaccine MUST also be boosted and up to date. If the vaccination lapses by a single day, they’ll need to go into quarantine before returning to the UK.

You need to allow 21 days AFTER the initial vaccine before you can re-enter the UK (or enter some other countries), to allow the vaccine to “take” – so make sure you get your Passport and rabies jab at least a month before travelling!

Rabies Blood Test

If you’re travelling inside the EU, or to certain other countries known as “Listed Countries” (see here), then you no-longer need a blood test to prove that the vaccine has worked (this is because experience has proved how reliable the vaccine used in the UK is). If, however, you’re going to any other country, you will need to get a blood test done and a certificate to say that their rabies antibody level was at least 0.5 IU/ml.

Other Health Documents

Some countries, e.g. Australia, have very, very strict disease prevention regulations, and may require additional vaccines, treatments, tests and paperwork before your dog is allowed in. In addition, your dog may require extra tests before returning to the UK from some countries (e.g. Malaysia).

As soon as you know where you’re going on holiday, contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency for advice! Our vets will also be able to help if needed.

Tick and Sandfly Protection

Although it isn’t a legal requirement, there are a lot of nasty diseases in other parts of the world that are spread by ticks and sandflies (e.g. Leishmania).

ALWAYS make sure your dog is protected with the most effective treatments available – talk to our vets for advice.

Travel Booking

Remember, not every airline (or even ferry!) will take pets – so sort out your booking as early as possible…

Remember too, that the cheapest isn’t always the best… If in doubt, get one of our vets to check the paperwork for you.

Sun and Heat Awareness

Dogs do not cope with heat as well as us (remember, they’re basically arctic animals), and can easily develop heatstroke, especially if suddenly whisked to a hot climate with no chance to acclimatise. Remember the importance of sunscreen too – dogs can get sunburnt, especially on their ears, noses and bellies.

Talk to one of the vets before going for advice about the climate you’ll be visiting!

Cultural Sensitivity

Sadly, not every country is as dog-friendly as the UK. In some places, dogs may be seen as unclean, or dangerous. In some areas, it may be a legal requirement to keep certain dogs on a lead, or wearing a muzzle – so make sure you understand the culture of the country you’re visiting.

If in doubt, check out the website of the country’s tourist board, or contact their UK Embassy or High Commission.

Tapeworm Treatment

1-5 days before returning to the UK, you’ll need to get a local vet to administer an authorised tapeworm treatment to prevent Echinococcus multilocularis getting into the UK. The vet will need to sign your dog’s Passport to say that this has been done. This doesn’t apply if you’re returning from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway, as the parasite isn’t found in these countries.

If in doubt, pop in and talk to one of our vets. Above all, though, have fun – you and your dog!


Flea treatment is year round and prevention is better than cure


Fleas. Did you know they can jump 30,000 times without stopping? How about that they can lay up to 1,500 eggs in their lifetime? Pretty incredible! One tiny little flea on your pet can become 1,000 fleas on your pet and in your home in only 3 weeks! Maybe that is more disturbing than interesting…

The flea’s life cycle starts as a tiny egg which hatches into a larva, this pupates (goes into a cocoon like a caterpillar) and then hatches as an adult flea. The only part of the life cycle that is on the animal is the adult flea, this means that most of the flea population is in the environment (i.e your house!).

Contrary to popular belief, not all animals that have fleas are itchy! Some animals are extra sensitive to fleas (something we call flea allergic dermatitis) and they will be itchy. Dogs and cats can show itchiness in different ways: chewing, rubbing, overgrooming (cats) and scratching. Fleas can also bite humans so you may find bites on yourself too.

A common thing people say is “I haven’t seen any fleas on my pet so there isn’t a problem”. If you see a flea on your pet there is a big infestation. Fleas like the dark so will often not be spotted until there are so many they can’t hide on your pet anymore. The only way to be sure your pet hasn’t got fleas is to treat them regularly with a product that works.


Tackling a flea infestation:

       Flea treatment – this only kills the adult fleas when they bite your pet. This is essential to remove an infestation. Buy a product you can trust – prescription products are the most effective treatments we have, you can only get these from a vet. Older products can be bought from the supermarkets or pet stores, but unfortunately fleas are unlikely to be killed because these older drugs are less effective. Always check the packet before you put the flea treatment on your pet – only use a flea product designed for the right species (do not use dog products on cats as this can be fatal!)

       Removing fleas from the environment – vacuuming in all the cracks and crevices (this is where the pupae like to hide), wash all bedding on a hot wash and use a house spray that stops the eggs from hatching and the fleas from developing. This house spray needs to be applied every 6 weeks as it will stop working after this – you can buy this from the vets or a pet store.

       Treat all the animals in the household at the same time to make sure that all the fleas are being killed in the house. Otherwise once the flea treatment wears off the fleas will jump right back onto your pet and the problem begins again.

An infestation can be very difficult to get rid of! The pupae are very hardy and are not killed by the spray until they hatch, they can stay in their cocoons for a long time and can hatch up to 4 months later. This means that you must continue to treat the house and your pets for at least 5 months to make sure you have got rid of them all.


Prevention is better than cure!

Fleas are only around in the summer though right? Not right! Our houses are warm in the winter so fleas can survive all year round. This means it is important to treat all year round to make sure your pet is fully covered and your home stays flea free.

A flea infestation is not the home accessory that anyone wants! Regular flea treatment is the only way to avoid this. There are lots of options. There are tablets or spot ons, those that last 3 months or one month and even flea collars. Some products give tick protection and some can kill internal worms too. If you want to discuss the options you can book an appointment with one of our vets and they can help you choose the product that is right for your furry friend. To be able to dispense flea treatment for your pet we will need an up to date weight so bring them along. We can also send you reminders when your pet is due another treatment and all you have to do is call in to pick it up.



Can cats get the flu?


In short, yes!

In cats, we use the term ‘cat flu’ for respiratory infections in cats that cause signs similar to what you would expect in human flu. The situation in cats is more complex as signs can be caused by multiple pathogens, not just one virus as in the case of humans. 90% of cat flu cases are due to infection with either feline calicivirus (FCV), feline herpes virus (FHV or FHV-1), or both viruses together. Both the bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis, can also cause flu-like symptoms. A mish-mash of these organisms can occur, making this disease far from simple for vets and owners to understand.


How can my cat catch flu?

Cat flu is not infectious to people. Cats are infected via direct contact with infected cats, or their nasal discharge, tears or saliva in the environment. A cat’s sneeze droplets can travel several meters and the virus remains in the environment for up to 10 days. It can be carried around on clothing so indoor cats may be infected too. Cats kept in large groups such as breeding colonies, feral colonies or catteries and rescue centres are very susceptible as the virus spreads easily.

There is another route of infection making things more complex. Cats that survive herpes virus infection remain ‘carriers’ for life. Usually they show no signs of illness but shed the virus as above. Many don’t shed enough virus to cause infection, but some will during times of stress. They may show mild signs such as runny eyes or sneezing but more often appear healthy. In this way, a healthy looking cat, stressed by the new arrival of another cat, may shed in enough volume to infect its new companion. It might be wrongly labelled a vaccine failure, or brought in by the new arrival. A cat that is having kittens may shed the virus, infecting her kittens at a very vulnerable time. Even a trip to the vet’s may induce shedding.

With FCV, most cats will also remain carriers, but usually only for weeks, or months, and most will eliminate the virus eventually.


What symptoms might I see?

Some signs of viral infection are similar to those that we expect with a cold or flu-like virus in humans and include:

             Nasal discharge.



             Sore and runny eyes.


             Lack of appetite.

Some infections are mild and may even go unnoticed. However, in very young, very old or immunosuppressed cats (due to medications or illnesses such as FeLV or FIV), the symptoms can be severe. Dehydration and lack of nutrition can cause cats to spiral downhill.

It is impossible to tell the two viruses apart just from signs. However FHV tends to be more severe and more commonly causes sore eyes (from corneal ulceration), a sore throat and a cough. FCV is often milder, with less of an effect on the eyes, but can cause mouth ulcers which lead to drooling. It also affects the joints in kittens, causing ‘kitten limping syndrome’. A more serious form of this virus called virulent systemic FCV (vs FCV) can occur, which may sadly be fatal – but is fortunately quite rare.

Secondary bacteria can contribute to the complexity of this disease. Bordetella bacteria (which can also cause kennel cough in dogs) often causes sneezing, a nasal discharge and coughing. Damage of the delicate nasal structure can result in a permanent runny or stuffy nose known as rhinitis. Chlamydophila usually causes eye problems (conjunctivitis), which can be very severe. Pneumonia can also be a very serious complication often due to secondary bacterial infection.


How is cat flu diagnosed?

Usually the signs lead to a diagnosis of cat flu. Swabs can be taken from the mouth to look for viruses. However this is rarely done given the limited treatments for viruses, thus the treatment is usually not changed by identifying which virus(es) is/are the culprits.


Is there anything I can do?

Yes! Simple nursing of poorly cats; making sure they are warm, bathing sore noses and eyes is very important. This may be done at home, or if very ill, in a hospital environment.

Using tasty, smelly foods, warmed gently may help stimulate the often poor appetite. Steam inhalation or nebulisers may help any nasal congestion which may help smell return, with appetite following. Very occasionally, tube feeding is needed. If dehydration is present, intravenous fluids are needed.

Although antibiotics do not treat viral infections, if the vet suspects a secondary bacterial infection, they are used.

Interferons are proteins made by the body in part to help fight viruses. Synthetic versions of these interferons are sometimes used as antivirals. There is only weak evidence for their effectiveness and they are expensive, so are rarely used. They may be of benefit if given early in the disease. There are antivirals to help treat FHV related eye disease, and the eye drops can be quite effective.


Can cat flu be prevented?

Yes. Widely available vaccines to the viral components are recommended for both indoor and outdoor cats. They usually prevent disease, although disease may still develop but in a much milder form. There is only one strain of FHV, but there are several strains of FCV so the vaccines may not be effective against all of them. Remember the FHV vaccine will be ineffective if your cat is already a carrier, which is very hard to tell. So even vaccinated cats can be carriers. Ideally, vaccinate new cats early and keep them separate until the vaccine is deemed effective. There are vaccines available for some of the bacterial causes, mainly useful for breeders, rescue homes, and cats attending cat shows, where there are a lot of cats together.

Ideally, keep any infected cats isolated with separate food, water and litter trays, and use 5% bleach to disinfect the area regularly (take care to rinse well as it is an irritant to cats). Be aware that although you can’t catch these viruses you may carry the virus to other cats on your clothes and shoes etc.



Spring Plant Poisons

The evenings are getting brighter while the days are getting warmer and it is truly starting to feel like winter is behind us. Spending more time outdoors and getting to see gardens and local green spaces spring back to life is a wonderful sight – the trees are getting greener and colourful plants are starting to break through the soil. However, despite their pretty colours and delicate petals, not all plants are as innocent as they first look. Many spring plants can make your pets very poorly and even be fatal. Hopefully, we can help you keep your pet safe at this time of year by pointing out a few plants to avoid and giving some advice on what to do if you do encounter them.

Daffodils are often associated with the start of spring. As the days get warmer the green shoots pop up from the soil and bloom into the recognisable pretty yellow flowers. However, daffodils can be very harmful to your pet if eaten, particularly the bulb. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. These signs may appear any time, from 15 minutes up to a day after eating the plant. In serious cases severe dehydration, tremors and convulsions may develop. With crocuses, tulips, azaleas, sago palms and rhododendrons, consumption can also result in similar symptoms.

All parts of Bluebell and Lily of the Valley plants are also extremely toxic to pets if eaten. In addition to vomiting and diarrhoea, ingestion of these plants can lead to serious heart problems, such as slowing heart rate and arrhythmias (irregular or abnormal heart rhythm). Seizures may also result.

Lilies make a beautiful and elegant addition to any room, however all parts of the plant of highly toxic to cats, causing severe and sudden onset kidney failure. Some species may cause other toxic effects even in dogs, varying from stomach upset to skin problems, or even organ failure. If you do have lilies in the house it is recommended that they are kept completely out of reach of all pets – and remember, even the pollen is toxic to cats!

Ivy is not only toxic when eaten but also can cause problems when in contact with the skin and eyes. Signs of ivy contact may include conjunctivitis (inflammation around the eye), itchiness and skin rashes.

So what should you do?

If you see your pet eating any of the plants mentioned above, your first port of call should be to immediately give us a call! Take note of what it was they were eating, which part of the plant, what time and how much you think they ate if possible. If you can, it may be useful to bring a part of the plant in as some varieties of the same plant can be more dangerous and require more intensive treatment than others. Also carefully watch out for and note down any symptoms that they may start to develop. Even if no symptoms develop it is better to be safe than sorry, if you suspect your pet may have eaten any of the plants mentioned.

If your pet develops any of the symptoms and you know they may have had access to any poisonous plants, then again a trip to see one of our vets is the best course of action. Note down the symptoms, what time they started and any poisonous plants that you suspect they could have been in contact with.

Prevention is the best course of action to avoid plant poisoning in your pet.

This can be trickier to achieve in outdoor cats, as they may travel further than you can control and are often unsupervised. If you know your pet has a habit of eating certain plants you may want to grow them in raised pots that are out of reach or fence of areas to prevent access. When out and about, just keep an eye on them so you can quickly step in if you think they may be heading towards any dangerous plants.

Flowers aren’t the only thing popping up in spring. With more sunshine and fresh spring showers, the grass is starting to shoot up too. Although regular grass may not be poisonous some cats may enjoy eating long blades of grass that can cause problems if they get stuck in the nose or throat. Signs such as excessive coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite and nasal discharge could be symptoms of a stuck grass blade in an otherwise healthy cat. We will usually be able to rapidly diagnose and fix this problem.

Although poisonous plants are a concern in spring they should not stop you and your pet enjoying the outdoors at this time of year. Equipped with the right knowledge you can keep your pet safe throughout the spring and into the summer. If you have any questions or concerns about poisonous plants then our vets will be happy to have a chat anytime.


The Importance of Neutering

Neutering is the process of removing the testicles (in males) or the ovaries (in females) in order to remove the hormones that these organs produce and prevent the animal from reproducing. However, it also has other important health benefits. Whilst it is always a decision that needs to be made in the best interests of each individual animal, there are lots of things to consider when deciding whether (and when) to neuter your pet, so we thought we’d give you a quick run-through.

The language

There are lots of terms used to describe neutering, and they can often be used interchangeably, which can lead to some confusion. Neutering and de-sexing are the same things, although de-sexing is more commonly used in America. Castration refers only to males and involves the removal of the testicles. Vasectomy is also a male procedure – it is rarely done in dogs or cats as it involves leaving the testicles and all of the associated hormones intact, which massively reduces the benefits. The female equivalent is the spay or ovariohysterectomy. Most vets remove the ovaries and the uterus during a spay procedure, but vets abroad and those doing laparoscopic surgery may only remove the ovaries – this is still called a spay.


Neutering all cats not intended for breeding is highly recommended. Male cats that are not neutered are much more likely to roam out of their territory to find females. This results in a higher chance of accidents as well as increased fighting, which can be painful and spreads diseases. Neutered cats have been found to be more likely to be friendly to people and other animals in the house. Males can undergo the neutering procedure from four months of age, and we recommend doing them as early as possible if they share the house with unneutered females.
Female cats should be neutered from four months of age if not being used for breeding. Again, they will try to escape and roam when they come into season, which puts them in danger. Seasons can be loud – they ‘call’ for a mate with a loud yowling that sounds as though they are in pain – and they can become ill with it if they refuse to eat properly and get no rest. Pregnancy puts the cat and her kittens at risk, especially in young, inexperienced mothers. There is a social responsibility to consider too – cats are prolific breeders and one female can have 40,000 descendants in 5 years. If we don’t want a world overrun with cats, getting them neutered is essential.


Dogs are a little more complex. Although it is still generally advisable to get both male and female dogs neutered, the ‘when’ is a little more difficult to decide.
For male dogs, the proven benefits to neutering are multiple. Without testicles, the chance of testicular cancer is nil; the chance of prostate issues is reduced; and lumps around the rectum and certain types of hernia are fewer in dogs that have been neutered too. Most of these problems occur in old age though, and there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to neutering before a certain age. It’s better to get it done, but it doesn’t have to be when they are very young. In fact, some studies in Labradors suggest not neutering until they are fully grown at 18 months or so, and for other large breed dogs this may be sensible.
There are also concerns about castrating in order to control a behavioural problem. Unfortunately, in some cases, it can make it worse, so if this is your motivation for castration we recommend booking an appointment with one of our vets for an examination and discussion – we may suggest referral to a behaviourist, or a temporary medical castration in order to assess their response. From a population control point of view, dogs are less of a concern as they’re usually under some control, but if you have a dog that is prone to roaming, or an unsecured garden, it makes sense to get them castrated before they impregnate next door’s young female!
Which brings us to the ladies – we advise neutering all females for their own health. Like female cats, when it comes to pregnancy and puppies, the ladies carry all the weight and risk – and it can be a big one. Accidental litters of mismatched breeds are the second most common reason a caesarean is needed, so if you don’t want the responsibility and cost of pregnancy it’s best to get her done… accidents happen!
There are also the health benefits, of course. Bitches neutered before their first or second season are much less likely to get mammary tumours – and they’re much less likely to be nasty ones, too. Unneutered bitches are also extremely prone to a uterine infection called a pyometra, which can be fatal, and the risk of this rises with every season they have.
Again, the timing of neutering is a bit more confusing in dogs – there’s some evidence in larger breeds that allowing them to have at least one season is sensible, although in smaller breeds that mature more quickly this probably isn’t so important.

So should I neuter?

Yes – it’s definitely better to neuter. But every pet is an individual, every family situation is different, and sometimes the why and when can be a little more complicated than at first glance. If you want your dog or cat neutered, please call reception to book in.

However, if you’d rather have a consultation with one of our vets so that we can discuss the pros and cons for your specific situation, then we’d be more than happy to advise – just call reception and book in.


Why weight clinics are so important

We offer weight clinics because we are passionate about keeping our four-legged customers healthy and happy, and because we want to maximise their quality and length of life. We know how being overweight or underweight can negatively impact a pet, affecting their internal organs and joints, as well as their mental wellbeing. To educate owners about these things, and to explain how attending weight clinics with our knowledgeable nurses is the best way to help your pet reach their healthy weight, we have put together this article which explains why weight clinics are so important.


Helping your pets cope with fireworks

Autumn is the season for fireworks – which can be a common source of stress to your pets. Around 50% of dogs show some fear of fireworks studies have shown.


Keeping your pet’s teeth pearly white!

You may be asking yourself why you should keep your dog’s or cat’s teeth pearly white. Well, just like with us, toothache is very painful and poor dental hygiene can lead to further health complications. It is very hard for our pets to tell us when they are in pain, so they can suffer with this for a long time before it is noticed. Shockingly, by the age of 3 the majority of dogs and cats have dental disease. Even worse is that dental disease is completely preventable – this blog is to help all owners to be aware of how you can prevent this condition in your furry friends.

Pet passport

Pet Travel – a Step By Step Guide

More and more people are travelling abroad with their pets at the moment, but to do so there are a number of hurdles to overcome. There are regulatory hurdles (mainly involved in getting back into the UK after your holiday!), plus there are some very real disease risks present in other countries that we do not have here in the UK. In this blog, we’re going to look at travelling with your pets on a Pets Passport, and what you’ll have to do at every stage of the way!


Why vaccinate your rabbits?

Cats and dogs still top the charts as the most popular pets in the UK, however rabbits aren’t all that far behind, with more than 1.5 million rabbits being kept as companions. And just like cats and dogs, there are diseases that rabbits should be vaccinated against in order to provide them with the best chance of a long, healthy life. Making that annual trip to the vets is vitally important for rabbits, but the benefits aren’t limited to protection from infectious diseases!