Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Rabies - articles by Samantha David


Quarantine or Suitcase? 

      Quarantine was first introduced in 1901 as part of a campaign which also involved muzzling dogs and imposing strict controls on strays.  As a result, rabies was first eradicated from Britain in 1903. 

      At that time of course, there were no vaccines and treatments were rudimentary.  Rabies was usually fatal for both animals and humans. 

      These days however, with the introduction of microchips, vaccines and modern disease control, rabies does not pose the same threat and Britain is the last country to impose quarantine, Sweden having abandoned it in 1994.

      However, following the Kennedy report last autumn, MAFF's press announcement in March and the Quarantine Abolition Fighting Fund's court case in June, it looks as if quarantine is finally set to be replaced with a form of "pet passports" involving vaccination and positive identification.

      Obviously this will be good news for servicemen and women stationed abroad - many of whom have had tearful scenes attempting to explain quarantine to their children.

      According to Elizabeth Taylor, who has been outspoken on the subject, a number of film folk will also be thrilled to be able to come back to the UK with their pets.

      And it will be welcomed by people relying on assistance dogs, who will at last be able to travel abroad for work and holidays without losing the independence given to them by their canine friends.   Other celebrating groups will include ex-pats waiting to move back to the UK, people who have left dogs with friends abroad rather than subject their pets to quarantine, people waiting to import rescued dogs and of course, people who haven't been abroad for donkey's years because they couldn't go on holiday and leave the dogs behind.

      Obviously the considerations are different when a family is moving in or out of the UK permanently, or when someone relies on an assistance dog.  But in the case of a simple fortnight in the sun, will it really be such a good idea to take a dog abroad?

      It seems likely that the first international route to open will be the Shuttle - the Channel Tunnel car-train service, so the question of seasick dogs won't arise but the question of comfort-walks is another matter.  Any dog caught watering car tyres on the Shuttle will undoubtedly be extremely unpopular.

      However, getting your pet across the Channel is likely to be the easy part.  More tricky will be keeping him healthy and happy once you're there.  Various nasty diseases are lurking about on the continent, particularly if you're venturing south.  Some of them are zoonotic (ie can also infect humans), some are untreatable and some of them are fatal. 

      The most common doggy nightmare in southern Europe is probably leishmaniasis, which is found all over the Mediterranean region, as well as in North and East Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

      Having lived in for years in a region of southern France where it is estimated that up to 65% of local dogs have leishmaniasis, I can tell you it isn't pleasant.  I've watched dogs undergo months and sometimes years of incredibly expensive treatment.  Ultimately, none of them survived.

      Spread by sandflies, it has different forms displaying varying symptoms, which makes it tricky to diagnose.  It is extremely difficult to treat and fatal in 75-95% of cases.  Furthermore, many of the veterinary treatments used to treat leishmaniasis in France are not licensed in Britain.

      If that isn't enough to put you off, remember that in southern Europe mosquitoes can also spread canine heartworm and ticks can carry Mediterranean spotted fever. 

      The list goes on, so obviously the first step is to consult your vet before leaving the UK.  Apart from making sure all vaccinations are up to date, a general health check-up is advisable and I personally wouldn't leave the UK with a puppy, an off-colour dog, an older dog, a bitch in whelp or a bitch who might be liable to come into heat.

      But if you are determined to take your dog abroad with you, here is a list of points worth considering:-

      Check all regulations, as although you might get your dog out of Britain, you also want to get it into another country.  Make sure your dog's paperwork (ie microchip registration, vaccination certificate, third party and veterinary insurance) is all in order and up to date.  Pack copies of these documents separately from the originals, and also leave copies at home. 

      Get your vet to check that your dog's microchip is still working and that it hasn't migrated.  Also ask for a general health check and advice concerning your specific destination/dog and/or travel sickness.  Get advice about preventing bitches coming into heat.

      Get your dog clipped if applicable.  Trim any long hair between the toes to prevent grass seeds working their way into the pads of the feet if you're going to the countryside.

      Unless you feed a leading brand of tinned dog food which will be available internationally, consider taking your own supplies.

      Pack grooming kit, flea powder and first aid.

      Pack a snapshot of your dog, in case he gets lost.

      Worm and de-flea your dog.

Once there:-

      In hot climates, by all means try an anti-mosquito collar, but don't rely on it.  Instead, keep your dog indoors at dusk, protect him at night by spraying his room with fly spray etc, and putting mosquito net over the windows.

      Don't let him eat anything he finds (it could be poison, particularly in Italy).  Use a muzzle if necessary.

      Check regularly for fleas, ticks and insect bites.

      Do not let him off the lead unless he always comes to your call. 

      Do not let him roam.  Dog-napping isn't unknown.  Also, if he bites someone you could be in

trouble.  Regulations vary across Europe but depending on the circumstances, you could be required to produce veterinary certificates, present yourself to the

police, pay a fine, etc.  You could even face a destruction order.

      Be careful about overheating.  Cars, beaches, hotel rooms - all can be far to hot for a dog. 

      Be sensitive to other dogs.  Do not allow your dog to invade their territory.  Be aware that in southern Europe, a large dog on the end of a heavy chain is probably a guard dog and liable to be aggressive, both to you and to your dog, so give any such animal a wide berth.

      Are you really sure your dog wouldn't prefer a fortnight with your mother?

      Bon voyage! 



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