Healthcare for pets travelling abroad

When taking your pet abroad it is important to realise that there are potential disease risks which need to be considered.

The four main disease risks are LeishmaniasisBabesiosisEhrlichiosis and Heartworm. All are potentially life threatening and so must be carefully considered before travel. These diseases are all transmitted to pets when they are bitten by an infected insect (an insect which spreads a disease in this way is known as a vector). Different insects, or vectors, spread different diseases. With the exception of Heartworm, the only way to protect your pet from catching the disease is to prevent it being bitten by the vectors. Therefore, it is useful to know the feeding habits of the vectors and where they are likely to be found. The tables below give information about these diseases and their insect vectors.

The lists of geographical areas mentioned in the tables are not exhaustive. Also, high risk times of day or year may be noted in the tables, but vectors will also feed outside these peak times. These diseases principally affect dogs, but cats may also be affected.

Whenever you are travelling abroad with your pet it is sensible to seek the advice of a local veterinary surgeon with regard to preventative health, as he or she will best know the local disease risks. If your pet falls ill while you are abroad you should seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. It is worth finding out about local vets in the area before travelling, especially if the language is going to be a problem.

Should your pet fall ill after you have returned, do remember to mention to your veterinary surgeon that your dog or cat has travelled or lived abroad, even if it was years previously, as some of these diseases can take many years to emerge.

 

Leishmaniasis

Cause of Leishmaniasis- Protozoal Parasite

Vector- Phlebotomine Sandfly

Where do Sandflies live?

  • Woods and gardens (not beaches!)
  • Mediterranean countries and islands

Feeding activity of Sandflies

  • Potentially any time of day
  • Peak activity May to October

Prevention of bites

  • Do not allow dogs to sleep outside. Sandflies enjoy similar cool resting places to dogs!
  • Allowing animals to sleep upstairs may reduce bites, as Sandflies have limited flight
  • Environmental insect repellents – e.g. coils and plug-ins
  • Scalibor repellent collar for dogs

Speed of onset of illness – It may take up to 6 years for signs to develop after an animal has been bitten

Clinical signs of illness – Chronic or recurrent weight loss, skin and eye lesions, lameness and enlarged lymph nodes

Treatment – Variable success of treatment

Special considerations – Zoonosis (i.e. it can potentially be passed on to humans)

 

Babesiosis

Cause of Babesiosis- Protozoal parasite of the red blood cell

Vector – Tick

Where do Ticks live?

  • Forest and rough grazing including campsites!
  • France, Southern Europe but as far north as Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands

Feeding activity of Tick

  • Especially Spring and Autumn

Prevention of Tick bites

  • Prevent tick attachment – repellent collars (Scalibor for dogs)
  • Treatments to kill attached ticks – Frontline (cats) or Advantix (dogs)
  • Daily checking and removal of ticks using Tick Hook (see note below)

Speed of onset of illness – Rapid onset disease is possible

Clinical signs of illness – Due to haemolytic anaemia (destruction of the red blood cells). Pale mucus membranes, jaundice, weakness, fast breathing, red urine, collapse, death

Treatment – May not be curative

Ehrlichiosis

Cause of Ehrlichiosis – A rickettsial parasite in the white blood cells

Vector – Tick

Where is this Tick found?

  • France, Corsica, Spain, Italy and Portugal, and further north to Germany, Belgium and Holland

Feeding activity – As for Babesiosis

Prevention – As for Babesiosis

Speed of onset of illness – Rapid onset disease, sub-clinical infection (i.e. the parasite is in the body but does not cause signs of illness) or chronic infection (i.e. causing a slower, long term illness) are all possible

Clinical signs – Fever, anorexia and enlarged lymph nodes

Heartworm (Dirofilariasis)

Cause of Heartworm – Nematode worm found in pulmonary arteries (those in the lungs) and heart

Vector – Mosquitoes

Where do the Mosquitoes live?

  • From northern France south to the Mediterranean. Much of the USA and Canada
  • Hyper-endemic in the Po Valley in Italy

Feeding activity of Mosquitoes

  • Mainly at night but some species feed during the day
  • Especially from May to September

Prevention of Mosquito bites

  • Small mesh nets or window covers
  • Environmental insect repellents – coils and plug-ins
  • Scalibor repellent collar for dogs

Prevention of disease

Drug prophylaxis (preventative treatment) using Milbemax tablets – start a month before exposure, then give monthly until one month after return to the UK. Where dogs may have been previously exposed, testing is required prior to treatment. Testing comprises blood tests and chest X-rays (radiographs)

Clinical signs – Associated with respiratory disease and heart failure

 

Summary General Recommendations

Ticks

Prevent tick attachment

  • Scalibor collars (dogs)
  • Advantix spot-on (dogs)

Kill Ticks

  • Frontline (cats)
  • Advantix spot-on (dogs)

Daily check for ticks and remove any found using a Tick Hook

Sandflies and Mosquitoes

  • Keep your pet inside at times of peak activity
  • Use meshes/netting over windows
  • Use environmental repellents
  • Scalibor collar (dogs)

Heartworm prevention

Monthly Milbemax tablets
Start one month before exposure and continue until one month after return

 

Source: https://www.willows.uk.net/general-practice-service/pet-health-information/diseases-abroad

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