When people choose to travel abroad with their pet they are usually aware that rabies is a serious zoonotic disease which is present on the continent and other areas of the world but not in the UK. The PETS travel scheme is designed to try to prevent animals with rabies entering the UK. However many people are not aware that there are several other serious and sometimes zoonotic diseases which their pet may contract while on holiday abroad. This article will briefly describe them.
The main diseases which are a potential problem for traveling pets are babesiosis, leishmaniasis, ehrlichiosis, heartworm, and echinococcus.
Babesiosis is a life threatening condition mainly seen in the dog but can occur in cats. It is caused by a blood borne parasite which is transmitted by ticks. Your pet may show signs of acute anaemia if it is infected with this parasite. Prevention of the disease should be attempted. This can be achieved if the ticks which carry the parasite can be controlled, so treat your pet with a product such as Frontline before you leave the UK and continue treatment if you are abroad for any length of time.
Leishmaniasis is a protozoal disease transmitted by sand flies which tend to bite around the times of dawn and dusk. Leishmaniasis affects the bone marrow, spleen, liver, skin and the lymph nodes. It can be a fatal disease. It is a good idea to keep your pet inside when the sand flies are most likely to be out at dawn and dusk to prevent your pet being infected.
Ehrlichiosis is caused by Ehrlichia canis which is a rickettsial organism. This disease may be acute or chronic. Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by ticks found in southern Europe. This micro-organism lives in the white blood cells of the infected pet. The disease is serious and may cause signs such as fever, anorexia, lymph node enlargement, depression, swelling of the limbs, coughing, stiffness, difficulty walking and anaemia in the acute stage; many dogs will develop a chronic form of the disease in which they often have a severe loss of weight and other serious problems. Attempt to prevent this disease by controlling the ticks which transmit it using a product such as Frontline.
Heartworm Dirofilaria immitis is a parasite which resides in the heart and major blood vessels. It can be a life threatening condition and treatment for infected dogs does involve some risk to the animal. These worms cause problems when they clog up the large blood vessels, interfere with the valves of the heart or when they die by causing blockages in the blood vessels of the lungs. This parasite is transmitted by mosquitos and it is present in much of Europe especially the more southern areas. It is better to prevent this disease rather than to treat it once the parasite has become established. A product called Stronghold is used to prevent heartworm in dogs and you should treat your dog every month while you are abroad. Begin the treatment one week before you leave the UK.
Echinococcus granulosa and multilocularis tapeworms are passed on to dogs or cats when they eat infected meat. Echinococcus multilocularis is a zoonotic disease (can be passed on to humans) and can cause serious problems in people. Do not allow your pet to scavenge or eat raw meat while on the continent and worm your pet every 4 weeks while abroad. It is a requirement of the PETS travel scheme that your dog is wormed before it enters the UK from abroad to control this disease.
If you do decide to travel abroad under the PETS travel scheme try to minimise the risks to your pet as far as possible. Also remember that if you are traveling to a very warm climate your pet may be at risk from heat stroke so do take adequate precautions.