Diseases of Travel

You’ve bought a new sunhat and sunglasses, your bags are packed, you have your sun cream factor 30 and plenty of mosquito repellent. You have done all you can to make sure you and your family stay healthy on this summer’s family holiday to southern France. This year there’s more excitement, because, now he has his Pet Passport, the loyal family dog is coming on holiday with you all too! Thanks to the Pet Passport scheme, many of us now take our beloved pets with us on holiday, and unfortunately this can expose our pets to some foreign diseases. It is very important to know the right steps and precautions to take to ensure that our animal companions stay as healthy as us whilst travelling to foreign destinations.

Here are the key points:

– When planning foreign travel with your pet, plan well ahead and firstly ensure that all the Pet Passport paperwork is completed, and rabies vaccinations are up to date. Always ask our qualified staff for advice.
– We usually pick a holiday destination because the climate is more favourable than the good old UK! This can mean that the diseases affecting pet animals in these warmer climes, can differ significantly to those affecting pets here at home.
– The main advice for keeping your pet healthy during foreign travel is based on avoiding these diseases, since pet animals who have always lived in the UK will not have developed any immunity to these foreign diseases.
– The main diseases of concern are transmitted by biting insects (mosquitoes and sandflies) and also by ticks.
– Using products to repel and kill these biting insects and ticks is a key way we can help our pets avoid these diseases.
– Sandflies are common in countries of the Mediterranean, and can spread a protozoal disease called Leishmaniasis. Most active during the summer months, these insects can be seen at any time of day, and despite their name are usually found in wooded areas. Using insect repellent plug-ins can help keep them out of the immediate environment, but the most effective repellent is the SCALIBOR collar which can be used on dogs to keep the flies away. Making sure your dog sleeps inside your accommodation also reduces the risk of exposure. The good news is that recently a vaccine has been developed to help improve the level of protection that dogs have against the parasite. It can be used in dogs over 6 months of age, and the primary course consists of 3 injections given at 3 week intervals, with maximum immunity developing 4 weeks later. Do ask our staff for more information about whether vaccination is a suitable option for your dog.
– Mosquitoes have blighted many a human holiday, and we know how widespread they can be, affecting much of continental Europe and beyond. They are responsible for spreading Heartworm, a parasitic disease affecting dogs. Techniques to repel mosquitoes are the same as those for sandflies, and since mosquitoes are more active at night, it is particularly important to not let your dog sleep outdoors. Avoiding mosquitoes is extremely difficult, therefore it is sensible to treat your dog for Heartworm prohylactically, and we will discuss this later on.
– Ticks are commonly seen in Southern Europe but as we know from local experience, can be found throughout the continent. They are responsible for transmitting two diseases in warmer countries, namely Babesiosis (a protozoal parasite) and Ehrlichiosis (a rickettsial parasite). The tick life cycle means that Spring and Autumn are the main problem seasons, and it is advisable to use repellent products (SCALIBOR) when travelling. Checking your pet twice daily for ticks and removing them if found is vital, in addition to using spot-on products such as Frontline and Advantix to help kill the ticks, which makes it easier to remove them. For advice on tick removal, please ask our staff before you travel.
– As mentioned before, prophylactic Heartworm treatment is recommended when travelling into Europe, and this consists of treating with Milbemax tablets monthly, starting one month before travel and finishing one month after return.
– The diseases we have mentioned can cause very serious illness, and symptoms can begin very soon after infection or several months later. It is very important to get your pet checked by a Vet whilst abroad if you have any concerns. The symptoms can sometimes be very vague, therefore we always recommend getting your pet checked here at the surgery as soon as possible should any symptoms become obvious, even if very mild, and even if they arise months after you return from holiday. Your vet will take a full history, and it is important to remember to discuss any foreign travel that you and your pet may have been on.
– It is undeniable that we will see more of these diseases as more pets travel, but it is important to remember that if you prepare well, and take the right precautions, the risks can be significantly reduced. Make sure you always ask our qualified staff if you are unsure what specific precautions you should take, and that way together we can make sure the only things you bring back from your foreign travels are great memories!