Top 5 Bugs the Travelling Dog Doesn’t Want to Host!
Without wanting to get into the “for versus against” vaccination debate and without wanting to scare the heck out of you, Dear Reader, I think it is time we chatted about parasites and more. There are several nasty Bugs that you might meet on your travels and these are souvenirs you do not want to bring home.
But first, a disclaimer: we are not vets or animal health care specialists. We are informed travellers who are sharing information with you, encouraging you to have an in-depth conversation with your vet before you embark on your journeys. Just as a human may want a vaccine or certain medication for diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, there are certain measures to keep in mind regarding your travelling canine’s well-being. Remember, an informed and protected traveller is a safer, healthier and happier traveller.
So. These Bugs. Some of them you may already know, particularly if they exist in your own country or are already a part of the vaccine mixtures that most pets receive either as a puppy or on a yearly basis. For many, however, the following fierce five are unknowns. In fact, don’t be surprised if your vet doesn’t know about all five, especially if he or she doesn’t have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. So be prepared and do a little research, even before your trip to the vet clinic.
It also never hurts to locate a vet in the country you are visiting – one who speaks your own language and can give you recommendations about preventative measures. That vet may both be able to share information with your own vet before you leave and be a resource should you get sick while you’re travelling.
Okay, so let’s meet these Bugs.
As the name suggests, this worm lives in the chambers of the heart and in the heart’s great vessels. The worm is transmitted by mosquitoes and is common in southern Europe, around the Mediterranean.
There can be a time-lapse between infection and symptoms. In some cases, it can be years before signs become apparent. But once a dog has developed heartworm, the outlook is pretty grim.
- Avoid mosquito-infested areas!
- Ask your vet about preventative treatment. Once a month tablets or ‘spot on’ treatments can be obtained from your vet before leaving for your trip or from a local vet once you’ve arrived at your destination.
- Always treat a dog travelling to a known heartworm area. Recommendations are:
- If in the area for less than a month, give preventative treatment on return.
- If in the area for more than a month, give preventive treatment while you are travelling.
If your dog has been exposed to infection without preventive treatment – even if the exposure was some months ago – have a blood sample taken for analysis. Heartworm infections are easier, safer and more successful to treat before major symptoms arise.
This disease occurs particularly around the Mediterranean in summer. Leishmaniasis is carried from dog to dog by a microscopic parasite spread by sand fly/flea bites. Leishmania can also be passed to humans.
The sand fly/flea is not all that visible to the human eye so you will not likely see it bite your dog. The incubation period can vary from a few weeks to several years. Signs of infection include weight loss, enlarged glands, skin problems and chronic renal failure.
- There is no vaccine against the disease. However, if you are visiting a country where the disease is prevalent, you can protect your dog with a special collar which – as a bonus – also controls tick infestation for 5-6 months. These collars are available from your vet or from a vet on-site.
- Note that some preventative medications may need to be applied two weeks prior to exposure.
- Once you are in the area, avoid ‘high risk’ areas.
- Keep your pets indoors from one hour before dusk until one hour after sunrise.
This is a serious tick-borne disease, which destroys red blood cells and only affects dogs. Signs include fever, anemia, blood in the urine and jaundice. Susceptible dogs can die within a day or two from the onset of the symptoms.
- It is vital to protect your dog from ticks and check his or her coat every day – both at home and while travelling. If you can remove a tick within a day of attachment, it may be possible to reduce the risk of the disease occurring. It’s important that you know how to remove ticks safely. Inexpensive tools specially shaped for removing ticks can be bought from your vet or at most pet stores. Instructions for using the tool are on the package.
- Specific sprays, impregnated collars and ‘spot-on’ treatments for prevention are also available from your vet. Apply the treatment before travelling and continue to apply regularly while travelling.
- Note: If you are travelling or returning to the United Kingdom, your dog must be treated for ticks between 24-48 hours before entering the country.
This is another tick-borne disease; it is prevalent in southern Europe and in Finland . Signs of infection include fever, severe depression, weight loss, anemia, and swollen glands. In the later stages of the disease, your pet may experience nosebleeds and other hemorrhages.
- We said it before and we’ll say it again: it is vital to protect your dog from ticks; check your dog’s coat every day.
- Again, specific sprays, impregnated collars and ‘spot-on’ treatments for prevention are also available from your vet. Apply the treatment before travelling and continue to apply regularly while travelling.
- And as with babesiosis, the UK requires that tick treatment be carried out between 24-48 hours before entering the country.
- Consult your vet if symptoms appear, always making it clear if your dog has been to an affected area.
This is a widespread disease of both dogs and cats living in warmer climates. The disease is caused by a protozoan parasite carried by bloodsucking insects, mites or, most commonly, tick. (Those darned ticks!)
There are two main types of the disease:
H. canis – Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Signs can include fever, lethargy, weight loss, anemia and secondary liver, lung and kidney disease. This disease can be diagnosed by a blood sample.
H. americanum – Southern States of the USA. Signs can include severe pain, lameness and paralysis and the occurrence of abscesses (all in muscles). This condition can be diagnosed by muscle biopsies.
Three times is the charm, so let’s repeat the routine for preventing tick borne diseases one last time.
- Check your dog’s coat every day – both at home and while travelling. Remove any found ticks within a day of attachment, using a specific tool specially shaped for removing ticks.
- Apply any preventative sprays, impregnated collars and ‘spot-on’ treatments before travelling and during travel.
- If you are travelling or returning to the UK, remember to treat your dog for ticks between 24-48 hours before entering the country.
Preventative measures are almost always a good idea. It is also invaluable to have your pet go through a complete and thorough annual health check. Always remind your vet that your dog is a world traveller. Remind them where the dog has been, when and for how long, and list the diseases mentioned above if appropriate.
You may also decide to have a stool sample and blood test done after each trip (we do!). Blood tests are a pain for your dog and a drain on your wallet, but they are far less traumatic than missing preventable loss of life or transmission of an illness to family and friends.