Britain is a nation of dog-lovers, with more and more homes opting to adopt the animals as pets.
But vets are now warning that a recent surge in rescue dogs being brought into Britain could potentially expose homegrown dogs to deadly exotic diseases.
Risk of infection
Dubbed ‘trojan’ rescue dogs, these animals from abroad risk exposing Britain’s pets to a range of infections, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The BVA warned that stray dogs from abroad may have undetected and potentially life-threatening exotic diseases, which are not traditionally seen in the UK.
A large proportion of dogs from abroad have unknown health histories and can carry lethal diseases such as leishmaniasis, rabies, canine babesiosis and heartworm.
However, they may not always show any outward clinical symptoms of these diseases, which carries the risk of passing these infections on to susceptible pets when imported into the UK.
Some diseases, known as Zoonotic diseases, can be transmitted from animals to humans and those brought in from pooches from abroad can also pose a threat to humans, according to the BVA.
Disastrous for pets – and humans
John Fishwick, President of the BVA, said: “We are nation of animal lovers, and so the desire to rescue stray, neglected or abused animals from other countries and give them loving homes in the UK is completely understandable.
“Unfortunately, the hidden consequence of this can be disastrous for the health and welfare of other pets as well as humans here.”
Dog-lovers are now being urged to consider rehoming abandoned dogs within Britain instead.
If you do already own a rescue dog from abroad, the BVA are now advising that you approach your local vet for advice on testing and treatment for any underlying conditions.
EU Pet Travel Scheme
The current EU Pet Travel Scheme enables stray dogs to be moved from within the EU, as long as they comply with regulations.
Regulations include treatment for tapeworm and receiving the rabies vaccination.
Dogs that do not comply with these regulations are quarantined and vaccinated before being allowed to enter.
However, it is possible that they may still carry a disease which a vaccination would have little to no effect.
The BVA have said that selaxation of pet travel rules in 2012 has led to an increased risk for non-endemic and potentially zoonotic diseases in the UK.
In the past few years, various cases of diseases brought into Britain by dogs from abroad have occurred.
Two years ago there was an outbreak of canine babesiosis in Essex, and in 2014 brown dog ticks were brought in from puppies imported from Cyprus.
The BVA has recommended that the government now imposes strict restrictions on the movement of stray dogs from countries which are endemic for diseases not currently considered endemic in Britain.
The association also urged testing in stray dogs for any diseases as a mandatory requirement before they travel to the UK.