Dog owners in the UK have been urged to take precautions against foreign ticks when taking their pets abroad.
Vets have warned that pets are catching potentially fatal diseases when travelling to mainland Europe where deadly tick-born Encephalitis has been identified as one of the key culprits.
The disease, which isn't present in the UK, can cause tremors, seizures and sometimes death and is carried by the Rhipicephalus sanguineus - also known as the brown dog tick or kennel tick.
Vets across the country are seeing increasing cases in pets brought back from holidays in Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria and are warning any dog owner planning to take their canine companion abroad on a pet passport to take preventative measures before travelling.
Pet passport parasites
The European Scientific Counsel for Companion Animal Parasites has identified the link between pet passports and more foreign ticks in the UK when 76 percent of dogs reutrning to the UK last year were carrying them.
Last year, 287,000 dogs travelled abroad with their owners and one study found 76 per cent of dogs returning to the UK were carrying ticks.
Ian Wright, a veterinary surgeon and the UK and Ireland head of the none-profit group of European vets specialising in parasitology, said the link between pet passports and new parasites in the UK was clear.
He explained: “Since the relaxation of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) there has been an increase in dogs travelling with their owners year on year as well as a rapidly increasing number of imported rescue dogs from countries where stray pet welfare is an issue such as Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.
Dogs are picking up ticks aboard and bringing disease back to the UK
“This has led to an increased number of exotic parasites from these countries coming into the UK, including ticks and tick-borne diseases.
“A major concern is that tick-borne diseases which can cause serious human health problems such as tick-borne encephalitis could enter the UK and infect ticks here, putting people at risk.
“The European Scientific Council for Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) UK & Ireland which gives free parasite advice and information to Vets and pet owners, is encouraging people to use preventative tick products on their pets before, during and after travel and to take newly imported rescue pets to their vet to treat and check for ticks and get a full MOT.
“We would also advise people to seriously consider rehoming one of the many stray dogs in the UK that need a home and campaign for better welfare in other countries, rather than import a dog from abroad.”
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows British pet owners to take their dogs and cats to Europe without the need for quarantine on their return.
The scheme requires pets to have a rabies vaccination to keep the UK free of the fatal disease but compulsory tick treatment was removed from the PET travel scheme in January 2012.
Since then pet travel has increased year-on-year, from 140,000 dogs travelling from the UK in 2012 to 287,016 in 2017.
Vets have also identified sand flies from southern Europe which carry Canine Leishmaniasis, a disease that causes lesions, weight loss and kidney failure, as another culprit.
And other parasites include heart worms which infect both dogs and cats as well as other animals and cause damage to the heart, lungs and other tissues and can also be fatal.
This piece originally appeared on our sister site, iNews