The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning jet-setting pet owners to take the necessary steps so worms, ticks and other parasites aren’t picked up by pets while on holidays abroad.
Many vector-borne diseases that occur abroad are not seen in the UK, which leaves dogs and other pets potentially unprotected and susceptible to contracting them. The diseases can be transmitted from one animal to another, as well as from animals to humans, often through insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.
These exotic diseases include leishmaniasis, an infectious disease transmitted by sandflies, which occur commonly in Mediterranean coastal areas; Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Hepatozoonosis, Heartworm, Canine brucellosis, Rabies and Tapeworm, among others.
In BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey last year, a concerning 27 per cent of companion animal vets said that they had seen cases of leishmaniasis in their practice in the previous twelve months, with smaller numbers of vets also reporting cases of conditions like ehrlichiosis and heartworm.
While many of these cases are suspected to have come from imported rescued dogs with unknown health histories, pets who have recently travelled abroad could also bring back these diseases. To keep pets safe from such potentially serious conditions, BVA has created a handy Pet Travel Checklist for owners:
- Book an appointment with your vet at least three weeks before travel to get your pet started on the right medication at the right time. Discuss the countries you intend to travel so that your vet can identify specific health risks to which your pet may be exposed
- Check that the rabies vaccination and pet passport are up to date
- Ensure the microchip is working and reading correctly
- Speak to your vet about preventive treatment needed to protect your dog against ticks, sandflies, heartworm and tapeworm and any other potential parasites or diseases. While tick treatments are not required under the pet travel scheme, BVA strongly advises that preventive, or prophylactic, tick treatment is continued.
- Talk to your vet if going somewhere hot to discuss prevention of heatstroke and how to recognise symptoms of the condition in your dog
- Identify a local vet in the area where you will be holidaying in case of an emergency and to administer (necessary) tapeworm treatment to dogs one to five days before arrival back into the UK.
BVA Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said, “We know that a holiday abroad with a much-loved pet can be fun, but owners should be aware of the serious health risks from unwanted bugs hitching a ride on our pets. Prevention is always better than cure, and the good news is that there are clear precautionary measures owners can take if they plan ahead.
“I’d encourage pet owners to contact their local vet for information on pet travel requirements and to book an appointment as soon as possible to make sure their pet is fully protected when it travels this summer.”
If your pet becomes ill after returning to the UK, it is very important to tell your vet that you have been abroad with your pet, even if it was some time ago.
For more information on diseases that pets may encounter abroad, owners are encouraged to read the Animal Welfare Foundation’s guide, ‘Taking your pets abroad’, and check the latest government advice on pet travel.