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, but infection in a highly susceptible British dog can be fatal. However, there are some precautions which you should take. See maps showing the distribution of the major exotic diseases. These maps are the best evidence-based data currently available, but are built from records in the literature. Thus, blanks mean “no published records”, not that infection is absent. The infections described here are extending their range in Europe, so the position is changing relatively rapidly. It is wise to assume an infection is present in mainland Europe unless you are certain it is absent.
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 approved tick control agents to prevent tick bite as well as to treat attached ticks. For short visits, preventative treatment with suitable drugs active against Babesia might be considered.
Check over the coat daily and remove any ticks found, preferably with a tick remover tool.
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 oral formulations (“Program Plus”, “Milbemax” or “Advocate”) some of which also include ectoparasiticides. 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.), will also be helpful.
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. For prevention and treatment of ticks see above. Additionally, for short visits to endemic areas, preventative treatment with suitable drugs active against Ehrlichia might be considered.
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 dogs in poor condition in 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.
It is recommended that collars are put on dogs several days before possible exposure to sandflies. A spot-on treatment lasting 2 weeks (“Advantix”) is an alternative. If these are not available, use burning coils or plug-in insect repellents.
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.