If you plan on returning home with your pet at any time, make sure you are aware of quarantine regulations. There are currently no quarantine requirements for entry to Bulgaria, but your pet will need a health certificate with evidence of rabies vaccination (see Vaccinations below).
If you’re exporting a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, mouse, rat or ferret to Bulgaria from the UK, you must decide in advance whether you might ever bring your pet back to the UK. If the answer is yes, or if you’re unsure, you should have your pet microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood tested at least a month after the rabies vaccination to check that it has sufficient protection against the disease.
Your pet will need to stay a minimum of 30 days in Bulgaria after the blood test to make sure it hasn’t contracted rabies. If you’re returning with your pet from Bulgaria to an EU country you will need to obtain a ‘pet passport’, details of which are available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
If you don’t plan to bring your pet back to the UK, you need only an export certificate from DEFRA and a health certificate issued by an approved vet less than 15 days before departure. Regulations will probably change once Bulgaria joins the EU, but rabies is likely to be prevalent in Bulgaria for many more years.
Pets can be transported by air and sometimes carried with you (in an approved container) for an extra charge. There are companies that will accommodate your pets for you while you move, take care of all export requirements and ship them to you when you’ve settled in.
Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria, particularly in rural areas and your pet will need evidence of rabies vaccination to enter Bulgaria. Resident dogs will need an annual rabies booster and it’s recommended they’re also vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Adenovirus or canine hepatitis – an acute viral disease which attacks the liver;
- Distemper – a potentially fatal viral infection;
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease which can be transmitted to humans and can be fatal;
- Lyme disease – a parasitic disease carried by ticks which can also be transmitted to humans;
- Parvovirus or Parvo – an intestinal virus;
- Tracheobronchitis – known as kennel cough and one of the most common canine diseases, which can lead to fatal complications.
Some infections will be more or less likely depending on where you live. Your local veterinarian should be able to advise which vaccines your dog will require. Vaccines are often available in combinations but separate vaccines are sometimes needed. First vaccinations are usually in two stages, with a ‘booster’ administered three or four weeks after the initial injection. A single annual renewal is required.
Cats aren’t required to have regular rabies vaccinations, although if you let your cat roam free outside your home it’s advisable to have it vaccinated annually. Cats do, however, need to be vaccinated against feline gastro-enteritis and flu.
Note that details of all vaccinations must be entered on a pet passport or veterinary certificate.
Bulgaria has a major stray dog problem and Sofia in particular is infamous for its packs of wild dogs (it’s estimated that there are four stray dogs for every human inhabitant in the capital), although the city council has put a number of measures in place to alleviate the problem.
Sterilisation of female cats and dogs not only prevents them from becoming pregnant, but can also protect against the equivalent of breast cancer if the operation is carried out before the first heat period. Sterilisation offers some protection if carried out after the first heat, but none after the second.
Castration of male dogs and cats is about half the cost of sterilising females and can be beneficial in situations where animals often run away or are aggressive or to reduce the smell of their urine.
Dogs and cats don’t wear identification discs or tags in Bulgaria and there’s currently no system of licensing. If you plan to bring a dog back to an EU country at any time, however, it must be microchipped, which costs around €35, although many local councils in the UK provide the service for less.
Kennels & Catteries
There are currently no kennels or catteries in Bulgaria. As more foreigners (particularly from the UK) move to Bulgaria with their pets, kennels and catteries will no doubt begin to appear. It could even be a business opportunity for those with the time to research the market!
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Bulgaria from Survival Books.