Taking your dog or cat along with you on a trip overseas has become more popular in recent years. Many countries are open to people traveling with pets and most will simply require proof of vaccination and a recent visit to a veterinarian. Some countries consider themselves to be rabies free and may require titers or may not allow your pet into their country at all. It is probably a good idea to find out where your destination country stands before arriving at the airport!
A good place to start would be contacting the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit. A list of all of the embassies or foreign consulates and their respective addresses can be found here: Foreign Consular Offices
Most countries are going to require you to have an APHIS form (APHIS FORM 7001 - "United States Interstate & International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals") filled out by an APHIS accredited veterinarian upon arrival. You can find information on that form and look for accredited veterinarians at this website: USDA
That same website also has a list of all of the countries and their individual importation laws regarding domestic and companion animals. For example, if you want to bring a cat to Jamaica it had better be from the UNited Kingdom or Ireland otherwise it is not allowed. Here is a quick link to that list: Nation List
You will also want to contact your airline and be sure you have met all of their requirements for flight before you leave. Nothing would be worse than arriving at the airport and realizing that the carrier you have is not appropriate or that they do not allow two dogs in the same carrier. While airline rules change quite frequently you can get a good idea of the current regulations here: Airlines and Pets
Recently I have heard several questions about a pet passport. There is not currently an official pet passport available to any pet outside of the European Union. In the EU pets can be issued a Blue Pet Passport that contains a photo of the pet and all of their pertinent medical history. These passports can only be issued by veterinarians within the EU.
I'm sure Fluffy will enjoy his or her trip to Italy. Just be sure you have all of the right documents filled out and the right people contacted or your trip may end at the airport!
You may or may not have noticed that your veterinarian gives all of your Kitty's vaccines in his or her legs instead of the nice loose skin on their back. Very few of my clients have asked me why we vaccinate there rather than the scruff. Maybe people assume we like the challenge!
The sad truth is that while vaccines are an important part of disease prevention they also carry a certain amount of risk. One of those risks is a type of soft tissue cancer that arises at the injection site. This can be several different specific types of tumor but most often it is a tumor called fibrosarcoma.
It used to be called vaccine induced sarcoma, this is because it was researchers noticed an increase in occurrence after the rabies vaccine was made legally mandatory in the late 1980's. The tumors were showing up in vaccine sites on cats and when they looked at microscopic sections of the tumors some parts of the vaccine could be identified within the cells.
Then the tumors started showing up in areas of the cats where vaccines were not given. Sometimes it was an area where another injection was recorded in the animals medical record. Other times it was an area that had sustained varying degrees of trauma.
Recent research has identified a genetic mutation in cats predisposed to developing fibrosarcomas. This indicates that at least some part of the problem is genetics.
I am going to use the vaccine as a mechanism to illustrate our current understanding of inflammatory induced fibrosarcomas.
A vaccine is given and creates a localized inflammatory reaction. This is the intention of every vaccine as this is how antibodies are formed. In a normal animal this localized reaction recedes and is gone between one to two weeks following the vaccination. In an animal with the wrong type of mutation the body is not able to properly control the inflammation and is smolders under the surface longer than would be expected. This is the part that gets scary. Every day as our cells divide small would be cancers arise. These cancer cells are typically dealt with by the immune system without any repercussion. In any inflammatory reaction the mechanism by which the body deals with cancer cells is going to be disrupted. Typically the inflammation either recedes and the body takes care of the would be tumor or the would be tumor sends out a strong enough signal for the body to take drastic action against it. In cats with the wrong type of mutation that inflammation is allowed to linger and the body can not respond appropriately. In these cats those tumor cells are allowed to flourish and grow. After some time, sometimes years after the vaccine was given, a tumor will take shape. Once they develop a blood supply these tumors grow very fast.
Treatment is multifactorial. The standard course of treatment is surgical resection of the tumor with generous margins. 5 centimeters (almost two inches) is the recommended surgical margin.This has to be done in 3 dimeinsions so it also requires removing a fair amount of muscle. It is recommended that the surgery be followed with raditation therapy with or without chemotherapy. Your only chance at a cure is to have a perfect surgery.
Many of these tumors recur after surgery because they have very long microscopic tendrils that migrate through tissue, they do not typically metastasize.
We give all of our vaccines in the limbs because if we ever have to go after a tumor we are far more likely to have a curative surgery if we remove the entire limb.
Cats that have had a fibrosarcoma removed, in my opinion, are not to receive another subcutaneous injection again. That means they are not going to be vaccinated, they can not receive some medications and should never receive fluids under the skin. Owners should also be aware that any type of trauma that causes inflammation could lead to another problem.I will not, however, accept concern about this disease as an excuse to not vaccinate an animal for rabies. The risk of cancer is still going to be far lower than the risk related to rabies.