Exotic diseases your pet can pick up on holidays

Ted the Beagle fell seriously ill after being bitten by a tick in Poland

Most people are aware of the risk of rabies when travelling in other countries with your pet, and the compulsory vaccination against rabies deals with this threat effectively.

However there is also a small risk of your dog picking up other exotic diseases: conditions that are never seen in Ireland, but which may be common in Europe and other parts of the world. You should discuss these diseases with your vet before taking your pet abroad on holiday.

Echinococcus multilocularis

Spread by dogs and foxes

The tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis is found on the European mainland as well as in many other countries. Foxes and domestic dogs are the natural hosts for the adult stage of this tapeworm. The adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the dog or fox. The head of the tapeworm attaches to the gut wall and then produces hundreds of eggs that are shed in the dog’s faeces. Wild rodents like mice serve as the intermediate host. Eggs swallowed by rodents develop in their liver, lungs and other organs to form multiple cysts. Dogs and foxes are then infected when they eat the rodents. Humans can also be infected, by swallowing eggs: it can cause serious disease, which is why the authorities are keen to keep this parasite out of the UK and Ireland

Prevention – worming & hygiene

  • Worm your pet regularly while overseas
  • Follow the rules of the Pet Passport and have your dog treated by a vet for Echinococcus multilocularis before returning.
  • Don’t allow your dog to wander freely, and avoid access to rodents when on holiday.
  • After handling your dog, always wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Leishmaniasis

Spread by sandflies

This disease is caused by protozoan species of Leishmania and is common around the Mediterranean including Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy and Greece. The disease causes weight loss, skin and eye lesions, lameness and enlarged lymph nodes. It can be treated, but is difficult to cure completely. One of the challenges is that it may not develop for up to six years years after the initial infection. Leishmaniasis is spread by the sandflies, mostly found in wooded areas and gardens – NOT on beaches. They are active at any time of the day from May to October.

Prevention – sandfly control

  • Do not allow dogs to sleep outside – sandflies prefer cool resting places.
  • Allowing animals to sleep upstairs may reduce bites, since sandflies have limited flight.
  • Use environmental insect repellents – e.g. Insecticide coils and plug-ins.
  • Insect repellent collars for dogs can help
  • Talk to your vet before you leave for advice about appropriate treatments.

Heartworm

Spread by mosquitoes

This disease is caused by Dirofilaria immitis and is common in Australia, America, Asia, Japan, Italy, Spain and southern France but could spread further to the northern coast of France with global warming. Heartworms live in the heart and large blood vessels, causing heart failure and breathing problems. Symptoms are not generally seen for about 6 to 12 months after infection. The disease is spread by mosquitoes. Treatment is based on mosquito control, and giving all dogs regular preventative medication.

Prevention – mosquito control

  • Prevention of mosquito bites by using special insect repellent collars or spot-on products.
  • The drugs that prevent heartworm in countries where the disease is endemic are given monthly, starting before you leave and continuing for a short period after returning.
  • Talk to your vet before travelling for advice about appropriate treatments.

Babesiosis

Spread by ticks

Babesiosis caused by species of Babesia and is seen throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. It is a parasite of the blood causing anaemia due to destruction of the red blood cells. Signs include pale mucus membranes, jaundice, weakness, fast breathing, red urine, collapse and occasionally death. The disease can be fatal, affecting dogs 2 to 3 weeks after exposure to infected ticks, so it is essential to get rapid veterinary diagnosis and treatment. To become infected, ticks need to feed on the host for 24 to 48 hours. Prevention is based on avoiding ticks from biting your dog and removing them within 24 hours.

Prevention – tick control

  • Do not walk your dog on rough ground or forests with grazing animals.
  • Use a tablet, a spot-on product or a special collar to repel ticks
  • Check your dog every day for ticks and use a tick-remover tool to remove any ticks
  • Talk to your vet before travelling for advice about appropriate treatments.

Ehrlichiosis

Spread by ticks

Erlichiosis is seen in all Mediterranean countries and causes disease in dogs caused by Ehrlichia canis and is also transmitted by ticks. Ehrlichiosis is a parasite that infects the white blood cells causing a fever 1 to 3 weeks after infection. Some dogs recover completely but others remain infected and can develop problems with their immune and blood clotting systems.

Prevention – tick control

  • Do not walk your dog on rough ground or forests with grazing animals.
  • Use a tablet, a spot-on product or a special collar to repel ticks
  • Check your dog every day for ticks and use a tick-remover tool to remove any ticks
  • Talk to your vet well before travelling for advice about appropriate treatments.

 

We talked about this recently on the Pat Kenny Show. Other topics we cover include dogs shaking in their sleep and a Yorkie who has  started to nip at visitors.

Listen to the podcast:

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