Taking your pet abroad potentially exposes them to diseases that are not found in the UK. Some of these are spread by parasites. Therefore, we strongly advise that an individual anti-parasite plan is discussed with your vet. This may be a combination of spot-on treatments, tablets and/or the use of a medicated collar.
Please refer to www.esccap.org/travelling-pets-advice for more localised information on the likely parasites encountered at your intended destination. Additionally, www.cvbd.org is a very useful website to refer to.
Below is a summary of the more common diseases that may be encountered;
Although the legal requirement to treat pets for ticks before re-entry into the UK has been removed, the need to treat them before travelling abroad has not. Whilst both ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) are present in the UK, there are also species of tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and tick-borne diseases (e.g. Erlichia canis, Babesia canis and Hepatozoon spp.) which are not. Whilst the majority of ticks are found in pasture and woodland, it should be remembered that one species (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) can be found in domestic environments such as homes and kennels.
Acaricides (products that kill ticks and mites) should be applied before travel, animals should be checked regularly whilst abroad (at least daily) and visible ticks removed using a tick remover specifically designed for this purpose. It should be remembered that frequent water exposure may reduce the effectiveness of the acaricidal product and products should be reapplied in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
A dog infected with Erlichia may develop a fever, swollen glands, respiratory distress, weight loss, bleeding disorders, and, occasionally, neurological disturbances. It can lead to bone marrow failure and death.
A dog infected with Babesia can develop abnormally dark urine, fever, weakness, pale gums, depression and swollen glands. It has a guarded to poor prognosis.
Other vector-borne diseases
Leishmaniasis is an infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a protozoan parasite commonly found in Mediterranean coastal areas and transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies. Despite the name, which relates to their brownish colour, the flies are found in woodlands and crevices of old buildings. The sand flies are active from May to October and feed mainly at dusk and dawn. Prevention involves avoiding the sandflies. Most bite most actively immediately after sunset but feeding can occur over a much longer period of time and they can also be found in cooler, humid places during the day. Keeping animals indoors from before sunset and during the night will help avoid bites. The use of insect repellents such as those containing synthetic pyrethroids (do not use in cats) can help although repellents alone cannot be relied upon to prevent disease. A vaccine for dogs is now available in the UK. This can be discussed with your vet.
Leishmaniasis can cause one or both of two types of infections, a cutaneous (or skin) infection and a visceral (or organ) infection. Both can cause very serious disease and the prognosis is poor, especially as often dogs will develop kidney failure.
Dirofilaria immitis (Heartworm) is a type of roundworm native to Mediterranean areas. The parasites are spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes during feeding and the larvae migrate towards the heart where they develop into adult worms. While some of the treatments available will have some repellent effect on mosquitoes, these should not be relied upon to prevent disease. Other drugs should be given throughout the mosquito season, starting one month before exposure, to prevent the disease. Keeping pets indoor from before dusk and overnight will also help to reduce exposure.
Heartworm is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, often starting with a cough but potentially progressing to heart failure if not treated.
Please inform the vet of your intended destination and duration of your stay and they can help you in formulating a personal parasite avoidance plan. However, please note It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of the possible disease risks for your pet when travelling outside of the UK