Many British people considering the move to Spain will want to take their pets with them. Since the relaxation of the quarantine laws a few years ago by the UK this is no longer a problem and even if you plan to make the occasional trip back to the old country your beloved dog or cat can be a part of your new life here. Properly vaccinated, microchipped and with the correct paperwork, the ‘pet passport’, your pets can travel with you.
Importing your dog or cat
To import dogs or cats into Spain they must be microchipped so that they are identified as domestic animals and apart from the vaccinations that they need to have in the UK they also need an additional vaccination against rabies. This potentially fatal disease is not something you actually need to worry about in Spain since there has been no human case in Spain or Portugal for a very long time. You may, however, wish to transport your animals through France where rabies is endemic in the wild fox population and that is why rabies vaccination is mandatory. If you take your animals back to the UK they will need rabies vaccination and a certificate showing that they have antibodies in their blood. All this is part of the ‘pet passport’ system.
The other normal vaccinations for dogs are leptospirosis, parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper and kennel cough while cats should be vaccinated against feline gastro-enteritis and typhus.
The real worry for dog owners in Spain is a disease called leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by sand flies. Many wild or rescued dogs in Spain unfortunately are infected by this nasty parasite. Your Spanish vet can organise a simple blood test to find out if your dog has been infected and, if treated early, the disease can be controlled very well by drugs and the dog can lead a normal life. Untreated, the parasite causes a disease which to the layman is a cross between malaria and AIDS and it can be fatal. There is a serious effect to the dog’s immune system, which can leave it open to other infections, or it can cause problems with the dog’s coat through skin disease. It is not normally transmitted from the dog to humans so you do not have to worry on this count.
The one thing you absolutely have to ensure in Spain, particularly with dogs is that they wear a protective anti-flea and anti-tick collar at all times since this will protect against many of the potential diseases which are transmitted by biting insects and ticks. In country areas you also need to be careful about potential poisoning of your animals since it is still fairly common practice for farmers to lay down poisoned food to control foxes and rats. If you are a dog lover you will know only too well how good dogs are at finding illicit food that they are determined to eat. Be careful!