Part 3: The Medical Bit
Hooray! You and your pup are going on holiday! Abroad! Different food! Different culture! And different diseases….so it’s worthwhile being prepared
Make sure you know the disease risks in the country you are visiting - for you, and your dog
Think parasites - biting flies, ticks and tapeworms - and how to prevent them
Think heatstroke - how will you keep your dog cool?
Think Rabies - your dog is protected, but you are not!
What do I need to worry about?
The tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis is spread by foxes, but can also infect dogs. It can then be passed on to humans and can cause a potentially fatal condition called alveolar echinococcosis. Infection is usually caused by contact with faeces (poo), but worm eggs can also sometimes be found on dogs’ coats if they have been rolling in fox poo.
The UK is classed as echinococcus free, so your dog will need to be wormed with a tapewormer containing praziquantel before returning to the UK (see part 1). If you are staying abroad for some time, we would recommend using a praziquantel-containing wormer monthly as a preventative treatment.
Ticks can carry 3 diseases found in Europe that are not found in the UK: Babesia canis, Erlichia canis, and Hepatozoon. These infections can cause anaemia and bleeding. There is also a type of tick found in Europe that is not found in the UK - Rhipicephalus sanguineus - which can be found indoors in homes and kennels, increasing the risk of infestation and infection.
Sandflies (found in coastal areas of the mediterranean) can carry a parasite call Leishmania Infantum, which can cause a potentially fatal disease. Treatment, whilst possible, is lifelong.
Mosquitos can carry the heartworm Dirofilaria immitis. This worm can cause heart failure, lung disease, and in the most severe cases a blockage to one of the major blood vessels into the heart.
Your dog will be protected by their rabies vaccination, but remember, you are not. Your dog may attract unwanted attention from potentially infected wildlife or even feral dogs. If you get bitten, seek immediate medical advice.
All of these diseases may not cause symptoms until some time after you have returned home, and may require special tests to diagnose them.
Last but not least:
It’s why we go abroad, but it is worth bearing in mind that dogs need to acclimatise too, and they can’t take their coats off! Shade, fans, cooling mats and paddling pools can all help, but if your dog has a very thick coat, even this might not be enough. As in the UK, avoid walks in the hottest part of the day.
Sounds scary. Is there anything we can do?
Yes! We are so glad you asked this! Whilst we can’t completely prevent diseases, we can reduce the risk. Here’s how:
Use tick prevention - there are several spot-on, tablet and collar options for this. It’s worth noting that if your dog swims frequently, this can stop spot-on and collar tick prevention treatments from working properly.
Use a wormer containing selamectin or milbemycin monthly to prevent heartworm - start 1 month before you travel, and continue for 1 month after you return.
Remember you will need a tapewormer containing praziquantel to return to the UK - make sure you find a vet that can administer this in the country you are travelling to before you travel.
Avoid sandflies by keeping your dog indoors at dawn and dusk during May to September. Use fly repellent containing synthetic pyrethroids - this doesn’t prevent disease entirely, but may help to reduce fly bites. Some collars contain both fly repellent and tick prevention.
There are several product options available for tick, fly bite and heartworm prevention. There is also a vaccine for Leishmania available in the UK now. This does not stop them getting the disease, but reduces the risk of them getting an active infection and symptoms. Talk to your vet to work out the best prevention strategy for your dog.