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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
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Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Hello, We are in Lao PDR and are planning to return to UK

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We are in Lao PDR and are planning to return to UK soon with our cat. We had planned to return last year and started the process of rabies (and other) vaccination, blood tests and documentation at that time (our plans changed and we stayed on another year).
I am concerned about the current status of our cat's vaccination. He was 13 months old when first vaccine was administered, and ended up having 3 rabies vaccines within 7 months:
Dose 1: 27 December 2012
Dose 2: 21 April 2013 (after being microchipped)
Dose 3: 15 July 2013 (in preparation for move to UK, travel plans subsequently changed)
All of these vaccines were Rabvac 3
A blood sample was collected on 28 July 2013 and was processed in UK (Biobest Diagnostics). The rablies titre result was 6.74 IU/ml.
Now is my question! My understanding that Rabvac 3 is valid for 3 years. However, the first 2 doses should be 1 year apart, and subsequent vaccines given every 3 years. Our cat has now had 3 doses of this vaccine in 7 months. It is now greater than 12 months since the last of those doses. Will he require another vaccine now to ensure he is 'appropriately vaccinated'? I would like to know not only to ensure he meets requirements of travelling to UK, but also to ensure he is safe from contracting rabies. However, I have read (Rabies Prevention and Control in Florida document available online) that too many vaccines could be harmful.
I hope you can advise us
Kind regards,

Hello & welcome, Jill. I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.

First, in regards ***** ***** having had multiple rabies vaccines, while we don't like to overvaccinate animals (mainly from the view of the risk of developing a rare injection related tumor, less likely in a young cat), having had 3 vaccines in close succession on one occasion is not likely to cause Len any harm.

Next, the main complication, his vaccine time frame. Now this is an awkward situation. The reason is because customs tend to be sticklers for exact rules. So, we always have to interpret these situations with care and err on the side of covering our bases. This means that they will likely not count the first two vaccines because they were not a year before the most recent one (7/13). Furthermore, since the most recent vaccine was not a year later, they will likely not honor it as a 3 year vaccination. And if they won't, then we have the additional issue that since we are currently past July 2014 (when we'd have to give the next one) he is now overdue and this would potentially invaldiate the blood test as well. So, looking at the dates and considering how strict policies are, I am afraid that Len would be considered overdue for a 1-year booster despite his having had two too close together vaccines before the 7/13 vaccine. So, I must warn you that the DEFRA (the organization that manages these policies) will likely require a complete restart. That said, in this case because it is so awkward, I would advise that you contact DEFRA directly to see if they would allow Len's situation to pass. You can do so via:

e-mail:[email protected]

The PETS Helpline – Telephone 0870 2411 710 (8.30am5pm, Mon-Fri)

Finally, since you noted struggling with the specifics you need, I will just list everything required for a cat to enter the UK from a non-EU country. The requirements are:

  • Identification with an ISO standard microchip. (which you have done already)
  • Rabies vaccination, according to the data sheet in the country you are coming from (so do ask your vet for the data sheet so you have it on hand when you arrive in the UK).
  • A blood test for rabies antibodies taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination (he can of course travel after 3 months post the positive blood test).
  • Tapeworm treatment between 24-120 hours before heading to the UK (non-mandatory for cats).

Overall, while we can all suspect that Len has great protection against rabies, the times of the vaccine do deviate from the established data sheet. Therefore, we would be concerned that this latest rabies vaccine would not be honored as a 3 year vaccination. And because of that and the fact we missed a booster at 7/2014, we would be in a position where a complete restart would likely be indicated. But as I said, since he has this awkward history, he is a case that would be ideal to check with DEFRA directly. They will have the power to decide if they will honor his last vaccine as a 3 year one to allow him in or whether they are going to require him to restart.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks so much for your advice Dr B. I'm glad to hear (read) that the issue of tumours is less likely in a young cat. I would hate to bring Len harm in any way.

I think we'll have time to get things organised, but of course we'd be so happy if DEFRA would bend a little!! I will certainly email them with the query as well.

Take care

Kind regards


You are very welcome, Jill.

It is certainly worth contacting them, as I have (surprisingly) seen them bend in the past. But as I noted, we otherwise always have to err on the side of caution since we don't want Len to arrive in the UK only to be put into quarantine. So, hopefully they will feel like bending for him since he surely is protected (if only a bit off set on the times he was vaccinated)

Take care & all the best,
Dr. B.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry Dr B,

Just one other query, what do you mean by the vaccination data sheet? Is it the vaccination record card? If not, I hope you can enlighten us.



No worries, Jill.

Actually by vaccination datasheet, I am referring to the vaccine manufacturers' insert that accompanies each vaccine. Vets don't routinely give them out, since they are usually not necessary for owners to have. Still if we have any pets travelling from the UK into a non-EU country, I do tend to advise asking your vet for a copy of this just in case there are any questions at all about the vaccine brand/use/etc. at the customs desk. That way you are armed not just with his pet passport proving he has been vaccinated but can answer any questions about vaccine via the datasheet if they do query it at all.

All the best,
Dr. B.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks again, Dr B., I'll get hold of the data sheet.

I emailed DEFRA (the address you gave didn't work - they have changed it, by the way), the auto-reply on the second attempt to contact said they try to answer within 15 days. So we called them to get a speedier answer and they were adamant that we'd need to start from the beginning again. I find it strange that they enforce these rules apparently without knowledge of immunology (I work in Public Health and with specialty in immunisation, but that's for people, not pets of course). Surely a blood test before next vaccine to assess rabies antibody titre would establish if the cat has enduring immunity, despite the lag time. Then give the vaccine anyway. If the serology comes back with rabies antibodies >0.5 IU/ml then we know he was immune and should be able to resume vaccination as scheduled (that is, 3 yearly with Rabvac 3) and travel with him to UK. If the result was <0.5 IU/ml then test again at 30 days and if titre is sufficient, travel in 3 months.

Anyway, you can't argue with those that enforce the rules. We toyed with the idea to test him now and vaccinate, but decided they would undoutedly ignore the result and it would be a waste of our money and effort to do so (we are in a remote location and getting the sample to Vientiane and on to UK from here presents logistical problems). But, happily, we were able to taken Len to Pakse yesterday to visit his doctor and he has had his rabies vaccine. He doesn't enjoy his car journey of course, and he was exhausted by the time we got home, poor little fella. We'll follow up with blood sampling in 30 days and perhaps start getting serious about firming up our plans to return to UK early next year.

Sorry for my rant above, but needed to get it off my chest (or off my fingers as they were doing the typing)!


Jill, Chris and Len

Dear Jill,

No worries about the rant, I completely share your frustration and am very sorry to hear that they have been so inflexible with Len's situation. As I said before, it was a grey/awkward situation where one would think they should bend because he hasn't been lacking for vaccination. Furthermore, I totally agree that from an immunological stand point, Len poses no public health risk having had more vaccines in quick succession. Its just that our hands are being tied in red tape by the bureaucracy.

I suspect they are so rigid in these situations because the policies are made with vets/scientists to determine the best general course for the majority of animals instead of the individual. But when comes to the individual case, the enforcers may not be scientifically adept enough to appreciate each animal on a case-by-case basis. And that would translate to them being rigid about the rules because they essentially don't know better (much the same way the home office staff are with visas).

Finally just as we both share a passion for immunology, I would just note that while we both appreciate Len isn't rabid nor at risk of carrying rabies to the UK, titre checking alone would be of limited use in these situations. The reason is because one would argue whether his current titre was due to previous vaccine induced antibodies or natural exposure antibodies (which would suggest he could be a carrier). We'd of course expect a titre off the scale with natural exposure but the tests wouldn't differentiate so the government would see it as a risk. And with that in mind, I always suspect that the delay post titre result is to rule out titre'd animals from being rabid (since they'd likely so clinical signs or pass away before the approved waiting period ended). So, that is where we'd be caught out in titres alone.

Anyway, its an imperfect system but I am glad that the ball is now rolling for Len. Just remember no matter what your travel plans end up being, get the year 1 booster so that he then has that 3 year grace period for the next one and you have plenty of time if your plans are delayed.

Take care & all the best to you both,
Dr. B.