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Rising Risks for Travelling Pets Given Focus at Expert Roundtable

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  • Rising Risks for Travelling Pets Given Focus at Expert Roundtable

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    MSD Animal Health recently hosted a roundtable of experts from across the animal health industry to address the increased risks to travelling pets and the rising concerns of vets and owners. Attended by specialists from around the UK, eight speakers presented on a range of existing and emerging issues including tick populations and disease, Leptospirosis, Leishmania and Rabies.

    More than 280,000 UK pets travelled on the PET Travel Scheme in 2017 yet the meeting drew a consensus that the legislation currently in place focuses more on protecting human health than animal health. This means that pets are increasingly at risk. The discussion gave particular emphasis to exotic diseases which are expanding in parts of Europe, some of which could be brought into the UK on ticks, and some that can be carried in by travelling or rehomed pets.

    Claire Heath, Veterinary Advisor for MSD Animal Health commented: “We decided to hold this roundtable as a means of raising awareness of exotic disease risks in travelling pets and establish clear guidelines for veterinary staff and pet owners in terms of reducing these risks. Since the travelling pets legislation was relaxed in 2012, and with the trend for rehoming dogs from abroad, the number of cases of exotic disease has increased within the UK. It’s therefore vital that vets are aware of the diseases that are prevelant abroad so that they can advise pet owners on how best to reduce the risks of disease to their pets when travelling and can also identify the cases with which they may be presented.”

    Charlie Walker, Dermatology Consultant at TheSkinVet raised the issue of Leishmaniosis, transmitted through sandflies, and what he believes to be an increasing risk to the UK’s pet population. He commented: “We are seeing more and more cases of Leishmaniosis, so it is clearly a growing problem and a significant issue in general pactice, not just referral clinics. Most of the Leishmania cases are in adopted animals rather than animals that have been on holiday. UK vets need to be vigilant of the hazards, know to look for the signs for up to 7 years after rehoming or travel as well as which diagnostic tests is pertinent with each presenting case. It also means we need increased education for the pet owners.”

    Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University talked about changing tick distributions in Europe and the apparent increasing number of cases of Lyme disease in humans. He added: “Changes in tick abundance and distribution across Europe are driven by changing landscape use and climate and, with greater numbers of wildlife hosts, especially deer, domestic animals are likely to be at increased risk. Central Europe has a considerably higher prevelance of Borrelia than the UK for example. With more people travelling with pets, the risk of the introduction of novel vectors and disease into the UK will quickly increase, as highlighted by the Big Tick Project.”

    Ian Wright, Head of ESCCAP UK & Ireland and Guidelines Director of ESCAPP Europe, raised specific concerns about the risk of Echinococcus multilocularis, a disease transmitted by foxes but dogs and cats can harbor the adult stage of the tape worm. He adds: “An increased number of foxes moving across Europe is driving the spread of the disease which has now been found in Northern Europe. Whilst this disease will not show clinical signs in the pets that carry it, it is a zoonotic disease so pet owners are at risk if their pet is infected. In humans infection can cause liver failure and decrease life expectancy. Whilst this disease is not currently found in the UK, travelling pets pose a huge risk in terms of reintroduction. It is therefore vital that pets are treated monthly while abroad and the compulsory treatment is maintained. Vets should also encourage pet owners to attend a post travel consultation at which point worming 30 days post return to the UK should be advised.”

    Claire Heath concludes: “It was clear from the discussions that the industry needs to do all it can to keep the UK’s pets safe. As the disease landscape across Europe continues to evolve vigilance and preventation are vital, but this means educating pet owners of the risks. To support this we will be launching our own Travelling Pets Campaign in the coming months.”

    Full details of the Roundtable discussion will be appearing in the June issues of Companion Animal journal (ukvet.co.uk).

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