Ultimate Guide to Post-Brexit Pet Travel: All You Need to Know

Ultimate Guide to Post-Brexit Pet Travel: All You Need to Know

As the UK has now left the European Union rules on pet travel changed on 1st January 2021. Pet Passports have been replaced by Animal Health Certificates (AHC’s) that are valid for a single trip. We can arrange this for you.

You can still travel within the EU if you have a valid Pet Passport, but it needs to have been issued in an EU country (not England, Wales or Scotland) and these countries are listed at the bottom of this blog.

If you reside in the UK and wish to travel, there are different rules for EU and non-EU countries.


When travelling to an EU country your dog, cat or ferret needs:
  • To be over 15 weeks of age. This includes the 12 weeks it takes to be old enough to get their vaccinations and a 21 day wait afterwards to allow the vaccine to take effect
  • Microchip
  • Rabies vaccination (If your pet has an up-to-date rabies vaccination history following your first AHC, they will not need a repeat rabies vaccination before travelling to the EU or NI
  • Tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta given one to five days before travel.
  • Animal Health Certificate (you’ll need to bring proof of the above to your AHC appointment) issued within 10 days of the date you will be travelling. This is valid for up to four months of travel but expires after one trip. We can help clarify what you will need
When travelling to a non-EU country:
  • You’ll need to get an export health certificate (EHC). This checks that your pet meets the health requirements of the country you’re travelling to.
  • You’ll also need to complete an export application form (EXA) if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales.
Don’t worry: This all sounds very complicated. If you’d like to travel with your pet but aren’t sure what the right way forward is, just call us on 01376 786 732 or email us on reception@vistavets.co.uk

Check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel. For example, some countries have parasites or diseases that are different to ours and your pet might need additional protection from these such as poisonous snakes, ticks, mosquitos, and sand flies which can spread disease.

There are also other environmental threats that you might want to be aware of, such as hot pavements that might blister paws that aren’t used to it.

Laws on dog ownership might also be different so it’s worth researching this. For example, in Italy, all dogs must be muzzled whilst out, so you should get them used to this in advance of your trip so it’s not too unsettling for them.

Do these rules apply to assistance dogs?

Slightly different rules apply to assistance dogs whilst normally you would need to travel an approved route, you don’t need to with an assistance dog. You will just need to tell the authorities that you’re travelling with an assistance dog to make sure the appropriate checks are carried out.

How many pets can I travel with?

You can travel with up to five pets to and from GB. The only exceptions to this rule are if you’re taking part or training:

  • In a competition
  • In a show
  • In a sporting event

If they are in the above, you must bring written evidence of your participation in the event with you to the Travellers’ Point of Entry. Your pet will need to be over six months old, be actively taking part in the event or training and must meet all the other requirements needed to enter that country.

EU countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

Pet passports are also accepted from:

Andorra, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City State

Want to travel with your pet?
If you’d like to travel with your pet but aren’t sure what the right way forward is, just call us on 01376 786 732 or email us on reception@vistavets.co.uk and we'll help you arrange everything.

Exercising Your Pet: Tips to Make Sure Your Cat or Dog Gets Exercise

Running around, moving, and exploring is an instinctive part of a cat and dog’s life, and is fundamental to their physical – and mental – wellbeing. It keeps them in shape, maintains muscle tone and regular activity means they’re less likely to suffer from behavioural issues, obesity, and arthritis. 

But how do we know if our pets are getting enough exercise? And how do you even START exercising a cat?

Exercising Dogs

When it comes to dogs, the amount of daily exercise they need depends largely on their size and breed, age, and health. Within these categories there are also personality variations – just like humans, some dogs are more energetic than others and have more excitement to burn off!

As a rule, dogs should be able to run and play freely for between 30 minutes to two hours, spread across two walks a day. Smaller breeds such as chihuahuas and miniature dachshunds need the least with Retrievers, Labradors and Weimaraner’s (generally working dogs) needing the most. Flat-faced breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs need as much exercise as other dogs but can sometimes struggle to breathe due to the shape of their face. If this is the case, you could try shorter but more frequent, less intensive sessions.

Exercising Puppies

Puppies – no matter what breed – need to slowly build up to their exercise requirements to protect their joints. As your dog becomes a senior, the same might need to happen in reverse as you keep a careful eye on their joint health and stamina.  Just go at their pace and don’t force them to exercise for longer than they’re comfortable doing so. 

Exercising Cats

Cats are a different animal! They do usually look after their own needs, but if you have an indoor cat or if they would benefit from shedding a few pounds or working on mobility, then a twenty-minute interactive play session once a day is an excellent starting point. You can gradually increase the frequency of these if they’re tolerated, and they can do wonders.

What counts as exercise for dogs?

It doesn’t have to be a walk with your dog around your usual haunts which can get a bit dull for both you AND your dog. Routine exercise times are good as it makes it habitual, but keeping things varied is a great way to keep them mentally as well as physically stimulated. A few great things to chuck into mental and physical mix are:

  • Swimming
  • Agility – you could join a local club or try setting up your own course in the garden or park!
  • Running or cycling – the dog running alongside you. Cycling is not a canine strong point
  • Training
  • Play

What counts as exercise for cats?

For cats, anything that plays to their instincts to stalk, pounce and chase is good. They will be more likely to engage with this type of play, and it will bring out their hunting skills. Anything counts as exercise if it’s an outlet for their predatory instincts, and will help keep them fit, healthy and mentally stimulated. This mental element of play is key to preventing depression and boredom, and as in humans these can lead to other health and behavioural problems further down the line.

Ideas for cat-centred exercise play include:

  • Cat trees that have spots where they can bat at hanging toys, climb through holes, sit on raised platforms and posts they can scratch, which helps tone the muscles in their shoulders and back.
  • Laser toys that are hand-held or floor based. Cats love chasing a light around! Just make sure it’s built for purpose and sold with this use in mind
  • Catnip toys are great for hunting games. These can be led by your cat or they can be tied onto a stick with string and waved around in front of them
  • Puzzles where a ball is chased through a tunnel with their paws
  • Feeding mazes
  • Empty boxes they can jump in and out of
  • You can even buy cat treadmills now! But these are quite expensive, and cats are by nature very fickle and will do exactly what they want to do and nothing else. So, check the returns policy on more costly solutions

What if my pet has physical or behavioural issues?

If your dog or cat has an injury or has been unwell, then rest is important to recovery, and they will benefit from less daily exercise during this time. It’s important that they don’t become bored though, so try to find other ways to keep them stimulated. Gentle dog walks on a lead so they can still sniff around, hunting for their food or food mazes for cats or dogs, and indoor games with toys are all good ways to entertain them. If your dog likes swimming, then this can be a great option as it’s low impact.

Keep it safe as well as healthy! 5 top tips for safe exercising:

1. Watch the weather.

If it’s very hot, take your dog out during the cooler hours to reduce the risk of heatstroke, and take water and a bowl with you. During the winter be aware of how cold your dog gets and put them in a high-visibility collar or jacket on dull and dark days.

2. Keep an eye on their fitness.

If they’re struggling in ways they didn’t used to, pop in for a check-up with a vet just to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues. Always go at their pace and don’t rush into intense exercise faster than they can cope with. As with us, fitness takes time and work to improve!

3. Play with toys that are pet-safe.

Mouth and throat injuries caused by splintering sticks and animal bones are very common, and small balls can be a choking hazard. Make sure the toy they’re playing with is suitable for your pet and for their size. We sell a range of toys in the practice and are always happy to advise on fun things suitable for your pet’s needs.

4. Keep up-to-date with vaccinations and parasite control.

Diseases that we routinely vaccinate against are still around in this country, and not everyone vaccinate. These diseases are protected against for a reason – because they can cause life-long problems and sometimes death. Viruses and bacteria can survive for a long time in the right conditions, so it’s important that you keep your pets safe. Worms, ticks and fleas can also be picked up whilst out and brought into the house by us, so not even house cats are safe. These parasites are much easier to prevent than deal with!

5. Be a good citizen.

Always take a lead and poo bags when you take your dog out. If dogs need to be on a lead in certain areas, there will be a reason for it such as livestock, traffic or family-friendly designated areas. When in an area where dogs can roam free, but you spot a dog with a lead on or vest, put yours on a lead too. This isn’t just polite but also avoids confrontation, upset or fighting with a potentially aggressive counterpart. Clear up the poop.

Not only are you likely to face a hefty fine if caught leaving it, no one wants to step in poo and have it stuck to their shoes/car/carpets, or have their child fall face-first into it. Yes, it biodegrades, but so do good poo-bags these days.

If you’d like to discuss any health, behavioural or dietary issues with us then click here to book an appointment.

Chocolate Toxicity Calculator for Dogs

Chocolate Toxicity Calculator for Dogs | Vista Vets Chelmsford

Worried your dog has eaten chocolate?

With this unique tool, you can get an instant toxicity rating based on your dog’s weight and how much chocolate they’ve eaten.

Whether the rating is negligible, mild-moderate or a possible emergency, you will automatically receive guidance on what to do next.

Try the Vets Now chocolate toxicity calculator below:

Need a vet?

If you are at all worried your pet has consumed too much chocolate, please contact us as soon as possible by calling 01376 786 732

5 Potential Poisons to Protect Your Pet From This Easter

Easter and Spring are celebrated times across the country and bring fresh growth in our gardens, lighter nights, bank holidays and of course…. visits from the Easter Bunny. But it’s also a time we should be wary of some potentially nasty poisons that could make our pets quite unwell.

The number 1 most common poisoning over Easter is chocolate and the one we will devote the most time to in this toxic round-up. Fortunately, most people are now aware of the dangers, but this isn’t the only seasonal hazard to be wary of in our homes:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is considered by many of us humans to be one of life’s best treats, but for our pets, it’s highly toxic. In some cases, ingestion can even prove fatal.

Chocolate contains something called theobromine. This is a molecule made by plants and is found in cocoa beans amongst others such as tea and cola.  It has lots of different effects on the body – it widens blood vessels, aids urination (diuretic) and is a heart stimulant. Humans can quickly and easily metabolise this substance so it very rarely builds up enough to cause a problem, but dogs (and other animals, but pets such as cats, hamsters and rabbits are much less interested in sweet foods than dogs!) can suffer a build-up. This causes digestive problems, dehydration, internal bleeding, excitability, irregular or abnormal heart beat and muscle tremors. If this poisoning is left untreated, it can then result in seizures and death.


How much chocolate is too much chocolate?

The amount of Theobromine in chocolate products varies. There’s a much higher concentration in dark chocolate than in chocolate milk shake for example, but it doesn’t take much to negatively affect your pet. As little as 1.8oz of milk chocolate is enough to poison a small dog.


HELP! My dog has eaten some chocolate. What should I do?!

Don’t panic! Call us and we can advise you over the phone and if necessary, we’ll see your pet as soon as possible. Obviously, if you have a small dog and they’ve eaten a whole Easter Egg or box of chocolates, bring them to us straight away calling on the way to let us know you’re coming.

There is no antidote for theobromine so the usual way we treat them is to get them to vomit – ideally within the first two hours after they’ve eaten the chocolate. We might also wash their stomach out and give them some activated charcoal which is really good at absorbing toxins left in their digestive system.

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, we might also need to put your dog on a drip and give them some medication to calm their heart, control their blood pressure and stop seizures from happening.

With prompt treatment, the outlook is generally good for most dogs, even those who have eaten large amounts.


My dog is exhibiting the symptoms listed above as side effects, but I’m not sure if they’ve eaten chocolate or not. What should I do?

Call us. We can take a look at them and find out what’s going on. Whilst they may not have eaten any chocolate, these symptoms are always signs of something so it’s best to get them checked out as soon as possible and not wait and see.


What can I give as a treat instead of chocolate?

There are lots of options available for sale in the practice if you’d like a handy packet in your pocket. Alternatively, you could use apples, peanut butter stuffed in a Kong, cubed beef, or carrots. You can buy doggy chocolate, but it has little or no nutritional value so it’s not really worth it for the amount of time it’s in their mouths for.

Try our Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

With this unique tool, you can get an instant toxicity rating based on your dog’s weight and how much chocolate they’ve eaten.

Whether the rating is negligible, mild-moderate or a possible emergency, you will automatically receive guidance on what to do next.
2. Artificial sweetener
Don’t think you’re doing your pooch a favour by giving them diabetic or sugar-free treats. Some of these as well as sugar replacements, chewing gums and even some medicines contain xylitol. This artificial sweetener can cause mild stomach upset in humans, but can be very poisonous to dogs.  If your dog eats it, it can cause their blood sugar levels to quickly drop to dangerous levels. Larger amounts can even cause liver failure in extreme cases. If you think your dog has eaten sweeteners or if they appear weak, tired, collapse or have fits you MUST bring them in straight away. Other store cupboard dangers include:
  • Blue cheese
  • Onions
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Tuna in large amounts
  • Coffee and coffee grounds
  • Raw fish
  • Raw eggs
  • Excessive amounts of liver
  • Raw bread dough
  • Cooked bones (not poisonous, but can cause damage if swallowed)
  • Excessive quantities of sugar
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mouldy food
3. Spring bulbs
All bulbs – and often what grows out of them – are poisonous to pets. Dogs are most likely to be affected by bulbs as in the garden they do like to sniff them out,  root them up and eat them – especially when freshly planted in the Autumn of coming into flower in the Spring. Daffodils and tulips are the most common bulbs found to have poisoned dogs during these seasons. Inside, cats are most likely to be poisoned by lilies. These flowers are highly toxic to cats, and poisoning generally occurs when the cat walks across a surface where lilies are and brushes against or walks over pollen that they then groom off and ingest. It is recommended that households with cats don’t have lilies in the house unless you can be sure your cat isn’t going to go into that room or have any contact with where they have been. Signs of poisoning can include red gums, drooling, upset stomach (vomiting and/or diarrhoea), wobbly gait, tiredness and collapse.
4. Antifreeze
This is a particularly nasty poison, especially for cats as for some reason it smells delicious to them and they will lap it up if it’s found puddled on roads and drives. It contains something called ethylene glycol and an amount of as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can cause fatal kidney failure in a cat. It’s estimated that 90,000 animals are poisoned by it each year, so it’s a big problem. An antidote does exist, but to be effective it must be given within three hours of the cat drinking the poison. As finding out what has happened within this timeframe is unusual, treatment is sadly often ineffective. It’s vitally important that we keep antifreeze in sealed containers locked away from pets and children and don’t allow it to pool on the floor when using it. Regularly check under your car to see if your radiator is leaking or not, and if so wash the area down thoroughly and take your car to be fixed as soon as possible. You could also look for an antifreeze that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol as this is less poisonous. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are: Stage 1: (Within 30 minutes – 12 hours of the poisoning): stumbling, thirst, vomiting Stage 2: Symptoms seem to subside but huge internal damage is now taking place Stage 3: Loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, possible seizures. These all indicate acute kidney failure.
5. Slug bait
As temperatures warm up and lush green shoots appear, so do the slugs and snails. Gardeners often reach for slug pellets to control them without realising they are also toxic to pets who roam through the garden. Dogs are particularly attracted to the pellets. Slug pellets vary in toxicity depending on what’s in them. Some are fairly safe, others contain metaldehyde which is highly toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of this substance can cause significant poisoning, so make sure you wash your dog’s feet and mouth if you think they might have come into contact with them even if they haven’t eaten any. This will stop any of the substance from being ingested next time they wash. Symptoms of slug pellet poisoning are similar to antifreeze and initially include wobbling and being unusually uncoordinated, tremors and fits. These can happen within the first hour after poisoning so you must seek help from a vet as soon as you think your pet might have come into contact with pellets or eaten some even if symptoms haven’t yet started to appear.

Worried your pet has consumed something dangerous?

If you are at all worried your pet has consumed something dangerous, please contact us as soon as possible by calling 01376 786 732

Try our Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

With this unique tool, you can get an instant toxicity rating based on your dog’s weight and how much chocolate they’ve eaten.

Whether the rating is negligible, mild-moderate or a possible emergency, you will automatically receive guidance on what to do next.

5 Top Tips for Keeping Pets at Christmas Happy and Healthy

One of the most exciting things for us over the festive period is all the different things happening. We see people we don’t get to see often, socialise more, eat food we only ever have at this time of the year, and even decorate our houses with things that usually live packed away in lofts and cupboards. Whilst this all adds to the excitement of the season for us, it can present a few potential problems for our pets that we should all be aware of.

To make sure we all have a good time, can relax with family (fluffy and otherwise) and get on with enjoying ourselves, we’ve put together a list of our Top Tips to ensure a safe and merry Christmas for all.

1. Keep decorations out of reach – and as non-toxic as you can
  • Baubles and tinsel are as attractive to curious pets as they are to us. The temptation to play and pull them down may well be strong, so try to avoid this if you can by moving things out of their reach. Swallowing glass or plastic decorations can cause some nasty problems, and tinsel can be hazardous if they get wrapped up in it while playing.

  • Don’t put edible decorations on your tree. The temptation will be too much in the dead of night! The tin foil and chocolate aren’t going to give their intestines the treat they expect!
2. Keep cables for fairy lights out of reach or get a cable guard.
  • Loose cables can tempt cats, dogs and rabbits to chew on these new, rubbery items that appear in the house. They could give themselves a nasty shock and unwittingly create a fire risk.
3. Be toxin aware
  • Lots of traditional Christmas plants and foliage are poisonous to our pets, so make sure poinsettias, holly, pine, mistletoe, and amaryllis are in rooms they can’t access or are out of reach. Vacuum regularly to get rid of any pine needles – plastic or real!
  • Some foods are toxic for our pets despite being delicious to us. This list includes chocolate, mince pies and Christmas pudding (in fact, anything with raisins or grapes in), onions including onion gravy, broccoli, salty foods, avocado, coffee, cauliflower, nutmeg, peppers, garlic and alcohol. Bones from bird carcasses such as turkey and chicken are also dangerous as they pose a choking hazard and can splinter when chewed and get stuck in the digestive system.
  • Don’t put presents that include food under the tree. These will be sniffed out and eaten – probably including the ribbon and paper. We can all do without the destruction, and certain types of wrapping paper contain harmful chemicals. The ribbon used to tie gifts can also cause an intestinal obstruction if swallowed.
  •  Some pets are more intelligent than others when sneaking food while no one is looking. Keep an eye out for any changes in behaviour that might indicate this is the case – changes in their breathing, twitching, vomiting and diarrhoea, for example – and call us if you have any concerns.
4. Make your pets feel safe and stress-free
  • If you have visitors coming, make a safe space away from all the commotion for your pet to escape to. A familiar bed and some toys in a quiet room will be an excellent refuge for them if it all gets too much. Make sure guests know which doors and gates need to remain closed for your pet’s safety

  • Give your dog a good walk before any excitement, and they’ll be much calmer and more content. Keeping up regular feeding and exercise routines helps with a sense of security too

  • Fireworks are often around again over the festive period, so if this is an issue for your pet, make sure they are kept in, have a safe area to hide in, keep the curtains closed and that you have the radio or TV on as a distraction. If the fear extends beyond understandable anxiety, book an appointment to talk to us about how we can help. There are some nutraceuticals such as pheromone plug-ins and food supplements that might help as well as some additional techniques we could talk to you about
5. Don’t forget to have some fun

All of this makes Christmas for your pet sound pretty dull, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as common-sense rules, then you can all have a great family time, including your pet.

We sell a range of toys and chews that make lovely gifts for your pet, and just because they can’t eat the same food as us doesn’t mean they have to miss out. There are lots of safe treats and bones available to keep them healthy and happy. You could organise a treat trail as a treasure hunt and could even have a go at making your own ‘pupcakes’! Google has many ideas for dogs’ baked goods (and a few for cats!). If you make anything and post it on social media, be sure to tag us so we can see!

Our Christmas and New Year opening hours are available here, but if you need us day or night over Christmas (or any time), we’re here for you. Just call us on 01376 786 732