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Articles > Dogs

Vaccinations And Health Issues When Traveling

Topic: Safety tips for traveling with your dog

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Tags: Travel, Vaccinations

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There are many different potential health issues that can occur whenever you are traveling with your dog. Unlike emergency situations, most of the risk of your dog being exposed to these types of issues can be minimized if not completely eliminated by working with your vet and doing a bit of research. If you are traveling out of your state or local area, always check with your vet to find out if your dog may be at risk for any types of viral, bacterial or parasite conditions that you don't routinely treat for.

Each area, state, country or region will have specific health issues that vets vaccinate and test for every year or two as required. When you take your dog to a different area and just assume that he or she will be immune to diseases you are putting your pet at greater risk than you might expect. Some of the conditions that you pet may pick up on vacation may take weeks or months to manifest symptoms, which will make it even harder for your vet to identify and treat the condition.

All countries will require proof of vaccination before allowing a dog to cross a border, and some states, provinces or territories may also require proof of vaccination for out of area dogs, depending on any health issues, epidemics or outbreaks in other areas.

Vaccinations or treatments that may not be included in your dog's routine vaccination schedule that may need to included in your travel preventative treatments may include any or all of the following:


Heartworm is most problematic in the Southern United States along the Mississippi River and also along a strip of about 200 miles along the Atlantic Coastal area. Since mosquitoes carry heartworm there are occurrences of the disease all over the world including warmer parts of Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and even the Middle East. Cold climates are not as problematic as the lifecycle of the heartworm is disrupted in cold weather.

If you are traveling to areas where heartworm is a problem, starting your dog on monthly heartworm medications before travel is critical, ask your vet how far in advance they recommend starting a treatment. Some flea medications, especially to topical application of Revolution, will also help prevent heartworm.


Not all countries routinely vaccinate for rabies and rabies vaccinations are not required in every state in the United States. Rabies shots are typically good for one or two years, depending on the type of vaccination your vet is using. Puppies will require a booster shot after the first vaccination before they are fully protected.

Rabies is a very serious and almost always fatal condition that is horrible for the dog and the owner to have to deal with. In addition rabies can be transmitted from dog to dog, dog to other animal or dog to human. Always verify if rabies is a concern in the area you are traveling and many vets recommend getting a shot and a booster before traveling just in case.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is caused by a bacterial infection by Borrelia burgdorferi. This type of bacteria is carried by ticks, more specifically the Deer Tick in most cases. The typically tick found on most dogs is the American Dog Tick, which cannot transmit the bacteria. The dog tick is relatively large when engorged with blood, tan to grayish in color and very round to squared off in shape, and very easy to see and feel on the dog's skin. The Deer Tick is very small, dark in color and has a more pronounced head at the front of the body. Some of the Deer Ticks are as small as the top of a sewing pin, so owners may not even be aware their dog has been bitten, further complicating diagnosis.

Lyme Disease can be treated, however it can be difficult to diagnosis if the vet does not know that the dog was in an area where Deer Ticks were present. General symptoms may develop within a couple of days or they may not be problematic for weeks after the bite. Symptoms include joint swelling, lack of movement, lethargic, depressed behavior and pain in movement. Since these can also be the symptoms of literally almost any other disease, Lyme Disease often goes misdiagnosed for long periods of time.

There are both Lyme Disease vaccinations available as well as topical treatments such as Frontline Plus and K9Advantix that provide flea, tick and mosquito control on the dog.


Tetanus is not typically a common problem in dogs, however if you are taking your dogs to a farm or wooded area, it can be an issue. Tetanus is not only associated with areas where horses are kept, almost any place can have the bacteria Clostridium tetani present. Tetanus only becomes an issue if the dog gets some type of deep puncture wound, often by stepping on a nail or some other sharp object that has the Tetanus bacteria already on it. This forces the bacteria deep into the flesh that provides the perfect condition for the bacteria to grow and cause neurological problems. Skin rashes, scrapes, burns, scratches or even bites can allow small amounts of the bacteria to enter the dog's system and can, in rare cases, also cause the same problem.

Tetanus is not an immediate condition and may not develop for several weeks or even months, typically long after the wound in healed. Symptoms include swelling, rigidity in the muscles of the limb affected, stilted or uncoordinated gaits and general poor health. Sometimes the symptoms come and go which may delay the dog being taken to a vet. Eventually the disease will progress to the "lockjaw" position where the dog is totally immobile, then severe spasms that will lead to death.

Tetanus is only treated after the fact, not prior to the condition occurring. If your dog is injured or cut, it is a good idea to have a CBC or complete blood count test if your dog starts exhibiting any of the symptoms or signs of tetanus.

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