A RECORD number of pet owners are expected to holiday abroad with their four-legged friends this summer.

In the last five years alone, Brittany Ferries has seen a 72 per cent increase in pet passengers.

To travel aboard, pets need a pet passport, which owners must obtain from their local veterinary practice at least 21 days prior to travelling.

Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, is also urging owners to abide by the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to help keep nasty diseases, such as rabies, out of the UK.

“Dogs, cats and even ferrets can be legally taken abroad, as long as they have their pet passport through the PETS,” he explained.

“The main purpose of the scheme is to keep the UK free from rabies and certain other foreign diseases that are transmitted by biting insects and ticks.

“Our pets are susceptible to these exotic diseases, which in most cases are not easily treated and can often prove fatal.

“PETS has been in operation since February 2000 and means that, with a pet passport, a pet can re-enter the UK from the EU without having to be quarantined.

“It’s made the possibility of holidaying abroad with your pets easily achievable – something Brittany Ferries’ statistics clearly indicate and show pet owners are taking advantage of.”

With the increasing number of pets going abroad, owners are being urged to apply for their passport in good time and keep up-to-date with relevant vaccinations.

In 2012 Brittany Ferries transported 51,500 dogs and cats on routes to France and Spain, but last year this had increased to almost 90,000.

“Taking a pet on holiday with you is fast becoming second nature to many owners, and it’s possible we’ll see more than 100,000 pets on our routes this year,” said Steve Lawrie, pet passport manager for Brittany Ferries.

“The pet passport scheme has been particularly helpful for regular travellers with second homes abroad, but the number of holiday homes that welcome pets has also increased.

“This has helped make a trip to France, or further afield in Europe, an attractive alternative to leaving a pet at home.”

A pet passport is required to re-enter to the UK from an EU or listed non-EU country. Owners should speak with their local vet before travelling abroad and make sure their pet is microchipped, and the details are up-to-date, at least 15 weeks old at the time of travelling, vaccinated against rabies, and has been treated for tapeworm (dogs only).