The Adventures of Django and Arya

Pet Travel Safety

When enjoying an international travel trip with your cat or dog, it’s imperative to have a few extra pet safety measures in place. Depending on your choice of pet friendly destination, your much adored pet is likely to cross paths with at least one, if not multiple, biting insects. Sandflies, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can carry serious diseases, which they are able to transmit to cats and dogs. The diseases transmitted by vectors are often protozoal (parasitic). It’s vital that you protect your pet when you take your cat or dog to warm, coastal regions in Europe and the USA. This is due to the presence of Heartworm and Leishmaniasis, which can respectively be passed to your cat or dog by mosquitoes and sandflies. So, before taking a trip to a foreign country with your pet, always speak to your vet for specific advice regarding potential cat and dog travel diseases. In doing so, you’ll ensure that your pet receives the correct medicine, and preventative treatments, before travelling to a particular country. Your vet will likely recommend one or two of the numerous pet travel products available to keep them safe. A Scalibor Dog Protection Band or Seresto Cat Collar are both great all-rounders in protecting your pet from vector borne diseases. To keep our cats and dogs safe here in Portugal, we also use Bravecto, Leisguard Syrup, and Milbemax for our dogs, while our cats are given Bravecto Plus every two months. Read on for details of the steps you should take, and pet travel safety products you may want to purchase, for your vacation.

This page contains several links to our detailed information on each of the summarised vector borne diseases below. So, if you prefer, you can read:

You can also check out our Ultimate Pet Travel Checklist, 5 Essential Items for Pet Holiday Safety, and Are Pets Safe on Planes?

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Pet Travel Crates

If you’re taking an international pet flight with your cat or dog, you’ll know their travel kennel must comply with the Live Animal Regulations (LAR) set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The IATA LAR sets laws in relation to pet travel safety. But, while it’s important to meet IATA and airline rules in relation to your pet’s travel crate, it’s equally critical to guarantee that your pet is comfortable during transport. The IATA cat and dog travel crate calculator aims to ensure that your pet has adequate space inside their kennel.

But, to give your pet some true comfort, you can add some padded, leak-proof bedding. Also make sure that there are no protruding areas inside the pet carrier that could harm your furry friend.

Check out 8 Purr-fect Pet in Cabin Carriers and 4 IATA Compliant Pet in Hold Crates for some excellent choices.

When you fly with a small cat or dog in the cabin, you still have to follow the IATA guidelines in relation to the pet carrier, but some requirements aren’t necessary.

pet travel safety holiday vacation cat dog carrier

Pet Travel Scheme Requirements

Before we get into the cat and dog diseases that can be transmitted to canines and felines when you travel internationally, we’re gonna start off light! If you’re taking your cat or dog on holiday to an international destination, you will firstly have to ensure your pet meet’s the pet travel scheme requirements of your destination country. This varies across the board, but as a minimum, you usually need to:

  1. Have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped
  2. Be up to date with all annual vaccinations your cat or dog needs
  3. Vaccinate your dog, cat or ferret against rabies – your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated
  4. Wait 21 days after the primary rabies vaccination before travel
  5. Visit your vet to get an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for your pet, no more than 10 days before travel to the EU
  6. Remember that if you’re taking your dog to Portugal , on your return to the UK your pooch will need a Tapeworm Treatment 1 to 5 days before arriving on UK soil. Your vet must enter full details on the AHC following treatment.

Note that in some countries, such as the USA, it isn’t compulsory for your cat or dog to be microchipped for travel purposes. However, we strongly advise that you microchip your pet, because if your cat or dog gets lost on holiday, most charities will use a scanner to check for a microchip. While this doesn’t avoid pet travel diseases, it keeps your pet safe in other ways!

Cat or Dog Identification

In terms of pet safety on holiday, losing our cat or dog in a foreign country is probably every pet owner’s worst nightmare! So, as well as a working microchip, we recommend that your cat or dog wears an ID tag. Details should include your pet’s name, along with your name and contact number. Remember to add the country dialing code for your mobile number. Otherwise, if you’re visiting a foreign country, anyone who finds your pet won’t know which country code to use to contact you.

Check Pet Laws in Destination Country

Maybe you’re just going on holiday for a week or two, and as it’s not a permanent relocation, you don’t deem it necessary to check out local pet laws? Then, this is something you should definitely do.

Even when you’re just taking a short trip to an international country, it’s really important that you swat up on any local pet laws in place. For example, if you travel to Portugal with a dog, you’ll have to be aware that all dogs must be leashed in public places, and that there’s special rules for certain dog breeds.

If you plan to visit a dog friendly beach or park whilst on vacation, you should know the applicable rules too. During tourist season (May-October) in many popular destinations, dogs aren’t permitted on the beach. So, make sure have some knowledge of the pet laws for your location of choice.

Anxious or Travel Sick Pets

Many pet owners worry about the stress caused to their cat or dog during transport. This was certainly the case for us when we first flew with Django. Even though he was travelling with us in the cabin, we still worried that he might get a bit anxious in his travel bag the whole time. So, we used Adaptil Transport Spray, which seemed to do the trick. For anxious cats, we’ve used Feliway Friends which also worked incredibly well.

It’s also important to have your pet’s carrier around the house a few days before travel day. Put some treats in it, and help your cat or dog form positive associations with their travel bag.

For cats and dogs that get travel sick, whether by air, rail, road or sea, have a look at our Guide to Pet Travel Sickness Treatments.

Cat & Dog Pet Travel Diseases

For all international pet travel trips, your vet should always be your first port of call to ensure the safety of your cat or dog. Some medications and treatments don’t take effect immediately, and you’ll want to be certain that your cat or dog is fully protected against vector borne disease before you travel with your pet.

In warm climates, the following insects pose a particular threat to cats and dogs:

Fleas, Bartonella & Tapeworm

While fleas are a well known nuisance, did you know that they can transmit diseases to both animals and humans? Fleas can cause Bartonellosis in cats, a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed from your fluffy friend to you. If an infected cat bites you or licks an open wound, you may become infected with Bartonella, commonly known as Cat Scratch Disease (CSD). Be aware that infection can occur 3-14 days afterwards. You may see a lot of stray cats when you take an international holiday with your own cat or dog. While they’re always friendly here in Portugal, you still have to be careful that you don’t get scratched.

Both cats and dogs are also at risk of tapeworm if they ingest fleas infected with this parasite. Whilst grooming themselves, cats and dogs may ingest infected adult fleas. This can result in the tapeworm infection being transferred to their intestine. Fleas are found across the globe, but the potential cat and dog diseases when you travel with your pet vary by location.

To prevent tapeworm spreading, the UK, along with Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway, international pet travel safety rules require a Tapeworm Treatment for your dog. This treatment must be administered within 1-5 days prior to arrival.

Other diseases fleas can transmit to cats, dogs and humans are:

  • Murine Typhus (fleas can be infected by rats, and subsequently infect your pet)
  • Plague

Our Recommendations to Protect Cats & Dogs from Fleas

In Portugal, for our three dogs, we use a combination of Bravecto tablets every three months, together with a Scalibor Collar.

Both our cats, Star and Storm, receive Bravecto Plus every two months. We don’t use a cat protection collar, as they’re very adventurous, and lose their breakaway collars every week! So, if your feline likes climbing trees, fences and hedges on holiday, for their safety, it’s best to avoid any rigid collars.

Bravecto for dogs, and Bravecto Plus for cats, offer all round protection against fleas.

Mosquitoes & Heartworm

As with sandflies and Leishmaniasis, only the female mosquito carries Heartworm larvae. In addition, it’s only certain types of mosquito that have the potential to infect dogs and cats with Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Be aware that dogs are more at risk than cats, and for dogs the consequences are usually more severe. The disease is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected host, then it bites your cat or dog.

Once an animal is infected, the larvae fully matures to an adult Heartworm within about 6 months. Adult worms can grow to an incredible 12″ in length, and a large dog can hold more than 250 worms in its body.

Noticeable symptoms of Heartworm in cats and dogs include:

  • reluctance to exercise
  • fatigue after moderate activity
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss

Our Recommendations to protect Cats & Dogs from Mosquitoes

As with for preventing fleas from biting our cats and dogs, we use the same treatments to stop mosquitoes sinking their teeth in! However, while Bravecto paired with a Scalibor Collar are effective in preventing mosquitoes from biting your dog, they don’t deal with Heartworm.

So, for extra protection, we using Milbemax tablets, since all dogs require worming tablets anyway. Milbemax can be given every 3 months to prevent cats and dogs contracting roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm. But, when administered on a monthly basis, Milbemax is also effective against the Heartworm parasite, if an infected mosquito sneaks a bite at your cat or dog. This combination is recommended by our vet, so it’s useful in preventing dog diseases when you travel internationally to Southern Europe and the USA.

To ensure your cat’s safety from Heartworm whilst on a sunny vacation, you can choose to give them monthly Milbemax tablets. But, for convenience, we use Bravecto Plus spot on treatment, as this protects our cats against all types of intestinal worms, Heartworm, and other pet diseases. It’s a bit of an all-rounder, and the only medicine we have to give our cats here in Portugal.

Sandflies & Leishmaniasis

Canine Leishmaniasis is the result when the Leishmania infantum parasite is transferred to a dog. This happens when a female sandfly feeds on a cat or dog’s blood. Only the female sandfly (phlebotomine) feeds on mammals, and usually does so to be able to produce eggs. Not only a nuisance to us humans, sandflies are for sure a significant threat to pet travel safety.

Devastatingly, when left untreated, Leishmaniasis in dogs from sandfly bitescan result in the death of an infected dog within 12 months. In this case, fatality is usually due to kidney failure caused by the Leishmaniasis parasite.

Very rarely, a healthy dog can be infected if they are in close contact with a dog with open skin Leishmaniasis lesions. This is also the case for children under 2 years, and adults with a compromised immune system. It is unusual for the disease to be transmitted to the puppies of an infected female.

Symptoms of Leishmaniasis in dogs are either cutaneous, thus affecting the skin, or visceral, meaning the virus is affecting your pet’s internal organs:

Cutaneous Symptoms

  • Alopecia
  • Skin lesions
  • Ulcerative or exfoliative dermatitis

Visceral Symptoms

  • Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
  • Kidney failure resulting in increased urination and drinking
  • Ocular signs
  • Progressive loss of weight with decreased appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes

When you travel with a cat, there’s still a risk of them contracting Leishmaniasis disease.

Our Recommendations to protect Dogs from Sandflies

Here in sunny Portugal, we use Leisguard Syrup and a Scalibor Collar to prevent sandfly bites. The Scalibor Collar repels sandflies, with effects lasting up to a whopping 6 months! Leisguard Syrup is administered daily to our dogs in the months of June and October. However, to ensure international pet travel safety on holiday, a local vet should advise when to give it to your dog to prevent this dangerous disease. Some countries recommend daily dosage of Leisguard three or four times per year. The dosage months depend when the threat of Leishmaniasis is at its highest.

You can also opt for the Leisguard Vaccination instead, if giving daily medication during set periods of the year is difficult to undertake.

Cats are at less risk to Leishmaniasis, and our vet doesn’t recommend additional protection, just Bravecto Plus. But, when you travel with your cat, your vet may recommend other disease prevention treatments.

Ticks & Lyme Disease

In recent years, Lyme Disease has received a lot of press due to many US celebrities being infected from tick bites. While ticks can transmit diseases to humans, they can also transfer various illness to dogs too. Be aware that different types of ticks cause different diseases, similar to the fact that only specific variants of mosquitoes can carry Heartworm. So, the disease threat really depends on the dominant tick species in your holiday destination,

However, when you travel with your pet, there are some common symptoms across diseases that ticks can transmit to dogs. This includes the well known Lyme Disease, which can also be transmitted to pets.

Signs to look out for tick transmitted diseases in your pet include:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Pale Gums
  • Fever
  • Swollen Joints
  • Low Energy
  • Lameness

To keep your dog safe after walking in woodland areas on holiday, run your hands along their coat and check for any small bumps. Ticks tend to favour the ears, neck, head and feet. If you spot a tick, it’s important to remove it safely and quickly.

Our Recommendations to Protect Cats & Dogs from Ticks

You’ll be happy to hear it’s Bravecto paired with a Scalibor Collar again to keep your dog safe from ticks, and disease free, when you travel!

For cats, Bravecto Plus does it again, as the bi-monthly spot on treatment repels ticks.

Pine Processionary Caterpillars in Southern Europe

While the Pine Processionary Caterpillar doesn’t transmit diseases to pets, and it obviously isn’t a vector, you must still be very aware when you travel with a cat or dog. In particular, if you’re heading to southern, coastal regions of Europe during the winter months (January-April) keep your eyes peeled for the Processionary Caterpillar. Yes, you read correctly, caterpillar!

During the summer months, the processionary moth lays its eggs high up on pine trees, optimising the hours of sunshine. In order to deceive any flying threats, the eggs are covered with scales that mimic pine shoots. After hatching, the processionary caterpillar larvae gorge on pine needles as they progress through the five stages of their lifecycle.  The nests are shaped like globes, and have a similar appearance to cotton wool or a spider’s web.

pine processionary caterpillar nest threat to cats dogs pets humans
Pine Processionary Caterpillar Nest with Toxic Fibres

Towards the end of their larval period, upon contact with the skin of humans, cats and dogs, the protective hairs of processionary caterpillars can cause severe irritation. However, things get more serious when ingested, which may result in much more significant problems, and possibly even fatality in pets. So, they’re definitely something you have to be aware of to ensure pet travel safety on holiday.

Our Recommendations to Protect Cats & Dogs from Processionary Caterpillars

In the case of the pine processionary caterpillar, unfortunately, Bravecto, Milbemax and a Scalibor Collar don’t come to the rescue this time! So, you have to take other measures to keep your pet safe when you take an international vacation with these small, but dangerous, bugs.

At the moment, there’s no treatments available to protect your dog or cat from the poisonous hairs of the processionary caterpillar. If you encounter a nest, it’s best to be destroyed by professionals, due to the intricate and toxic nature of the fibers.

Over late winter and spring, especially from January to April, if you’re taking a break in southern Europe, particularly Spain or Portugal, keep your eyes peeled for processionary caterpillars when walking your dog. Look out for any pine trees in your area and avoid being close to them.

Always remember to consult your vet to find out exactly which protective measures that you should implement for pet travel safety purposes. Your vet will be able to advise you of the dangerous diseases presented by local insects when you take an international pet travel vacation with your cat or dog.

We hope this helps you make some choices around protecting your cat or dog from diseases when you travel. Keep safe, and leave a review wherever your destination!

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