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Diseases cought by pets in Europe can be fatal

If you are taking your dog away on holiday there is a risk of picking up diseases which are not normally seen in this country. The risks from a short holiday are low and vary depending on the area visited and the time of year. However, there are some precautions which you should take. For maps showing the distribution of the major exotic diseases visit (warning: this is a big file. Please be patient).

This disease affects almost all parts of the body. It causes skin problems, loss of weight, eye disease, lameness and often kidney failure. The signs may come and go. It is common around the Mediterranean including Spain, Portugal, Southern France, Italy and Greece. Many of the 'tatty' looking dogs you see on holidays to these areas, especially those with bald patches around their eyes, will have leishmaniasis. Treatment of the disease is difficult - many dogs will improve on drugs but curing them is difficult and most relapse at some stage. This disease may not develop for several years after infection. Leishmaniasis also affects people.

The disease is spread by sandflies - these favour wooded areas and gardens rather than beaches! They feed on blood and are particularly active at night in the summer months. There is no vaccine available so prevention is by reducing the risk of bites by sandflies-

Do not allow your dog to sleep outdoors at night unless in an area screened with small mesh wire netting.
Collars containing deltamerithrin (Scalibor) reduce sandfly bites considerably, last for 6 months and can be bought from your vet. A spot-on treatment lasting 2 weeks (Advantix) is an alternative. If these are not available, use burning coils or plug-in insect repellants.
Collars containing deltamethrin can be bought in Europe and reduce sandfly bites considerably (Scalibor)

These are large roundworms; the adults live in the heart and large blood vessels and they cause heart failure and breathing difficulties. Treatment is possible but complicated and expensive. Heartworm disease is seen in many parts of the world including Australia and America. In Europe it is most common in Spain, Southern France and Italy although cases have been seen as far north as Brittany. It is spread by mosquitoes and there is no vaccine. If infection does occur, clinical disease may not develop until many months or even some years later. Preventative measures include:-

Drugs which prevent the worms developing. Most are given monthly starting before you leave the UK and continuing for a short while after your return. A spot-on version applied to the skin, which is also affective against fleas, is now available (called Stronghold) or you can use a tablet form (Program Plus or Milbemax). Since this disease is serious and difficult to treat once the worms are in the heart, we recommend that all animals travelling to risk areas should be regularly given preventative drugs.
Prevention of mosquito bites (insect repellents, e.g. Advantix, staying indoors at night, etc.).

This is a disease of the red blood cells causing anaemia which can be fatal in some animals. It is particularly common in France, but also occurs in most other European countries. It can be treated but complete cures are rare. It is spread by ticks. Work has been done on producing a vaccine but none is currently available in the UK. The risk of infection can be reduced by killing or removing ticks within 24-48 hours of their attachment. This disease can have an acute onset with fatal consequences within 2-3 weeks of exposure to ticks. It is essential to get an immediate diagnosis and specific treatment - so if your dog suddenly falls ill abroad or soon after returning seek immediate veterinary attention.

Avoid rough ground and forests especially where other animals graze.
Use suitable spray, collar or spot-on treatment, such as Frontline, Scalibor or Advantix.
Check over the coat daily and remove any ticks found, preferably with a tick remover tool.

This affects the white blood cells. Initially there is fever after which some dogs recover completely. Others remain infected and develop problems with their immune system and bleeding disorders. It is most widespread in Mediterranean countries and is spread by ticks. There is no vaccine. Prevention is by:-

Preventing tick bites (as above).

Note that some of these diseases will become evident as soon as you return home whilst others may incubate for months or even years before signs develop. Please tell your vet if your pet has ever been abroad.

Holiday check list
Before you go:-

Check all paperwork is correct (PETS certificate/EU Pet Passport, import certificates, tickets, etc.)
Plan sufficient stops / carry water / time journeys to avoid overheating
Treat with Frontline, Scalibor or Advantix to prevent ticks
Treat with Stronghold, Program Plus or Milbemax to prevent heartworm disease.
Consider pet insurance cover for your holiday

Whilst on holiday:-

Check daily for ticks and remove any found
Re-apply tick treatment at recommended intervals if away for long periods
Try to avoid mosquito and sandfly bites
Treat with heartworm preventative at recommended intervals
Arrange for tick and wormer treatment to be given 24-48 hours before you check in for your return journey. Note these timings are strictly enforced!
Enjoy yourself!

After your return:-

If your pet becomes sick, be sure to tell your vet about your foreign travel.