So, the car's packed, plenty of sun cream, dog's bed with favourite toys are in and it's off to soak up some sun. Your canine companion is fully vaccinated and passported, and you've sussed out a suitable veterinary surgeon on the other side of the channel to worm him on the way back, so he's fully protected, right? Wrong!!
The legal precautions in force are there only to prevent diseases which have a public health implication. These precautions will not fully protect your pet against a number of diseases to which he or she may be exposed, depending on the part of the continent that you visit.
These can be broadly divided into blood born single cell protozoal or rickettsial organisms and worms.
Tapeworms we can ignore as they are taken care of with the worming dose on your return.
The only “roundworm”, or nematode type worm that is of importance is the Heartworm. This particularly nasty character is endemic in Southern Europe, and is spread by several species of mosquitoes. The larvae are injected as the mosquito feeds, and the adult worms develop and lodge in the great vessels of the heart. Pretty impossible to get rid of once they're there, surgical removal is usually the only way.
The blood born parasites live in various red and white cell types, and include Leishmaniosis, Borrelia (Lyme disease), Babesia, Erlichia and Anaplasma. To be fair, Lyme disease is present in some parts of the UK, and other diseases may well become established as pets bring them back and factors such as climate change make it easier for their vectors to live here.
We have already mentioned mosquitoes as a vector for heartworm, the other main groups of vectors are ticks and sand flies.
Many of you will be familiar with our home grown tick, several species, but all called Ixodes. These will carry Borrelia (Lyme Disease) in the UK, but only in a few areas, such as the New Forest. These also occur in Europe, where it is more likely that they will be carrying disease.
The more exotic diseases are carried by European ticks, notably the Ornate Cow tick and the Brown Dog Tick (and no, it doesn't just bite brown dogs!!) There are just a handful of sites in the UK where the Cow tick can be found, the Brown Dog Tick is not established in the UK. Well, I say that, but it does like central heating, and there are instances where this tick has become established in people's houses. It is virtually impossible to get rid of, it's said the only way to get shot of it is to move!!
The last little beauty is the sand fly. Looks like a small mosquito, and is confined to Southern Europe, where it kindly distributes Leishmaniosis to any susceptible host.
Prevention and Cure
We can deal with cure quite quickly – 'cos for most of these things there isn't one. They can be treated, but your dog will probably remain a carrier forever. Individuals from the UK will have no natural immunity to many of these diseases, unlike the locals, and as such will be completely undefended.
Prevention is the key. There is a vaccine against Leishmania, but even this is best prevented by stopping the vectors before they get a chance to pass the disease on. We have a wide range of drugs that we can use to repel and/or kill the vectors, and to provide a defence against nematode larval stages. It is difficult to give a “one size fits all” prevention strategy, but we can design a tailor made scheme for your pet, depending on the countries you intend to visit and the time of year to try and ensure that it's you that comes back with the souvenirs of your holiday, not your dog. Call us now for an appointment.