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Call for requirement for tapeworm treatment to be retained for dogs entering UK

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01 July 2010, at 12:00am

“Echinococcus is one of the most serious zoonotic diseases to affect man. It can take 15 years to show and the Department of Health is keen to not let it enter the country,”said Harvey Locke, president-elect of the BVA. 

He was responding to a question from former BVA president, John Bower, during Dunlops Question Time at the annual SPVS congress in May, about the possible removal of restrictions on pet animals being brought into the UK. 

Mr Locke said the European Commission wanted harmonisation across Europe and the UK would not receive an extension to its derogation after the end of 2011. But while the emphasis in the past had been upon rabies, echinococcus had to be considered separately. “We are working very hard to ensure we retain the requirement for tapeworm treatment.” 

Dr Richard Dixon, senior vice-president of the BSAVA, said the key concern was echinococcus. Therisk was scary, he continued, and we must have proper controls. He wanted the public to be made more aware of the threat, adding that DEFRA was aware of the underlying issues. 

Professor Sandy Trees,the Royal College president, said echinococcus was a very serious issue. It was not yet common in mainland Europe but it was spreading. 

“If it ever gets into the native fox populations we will never get rid of it. We should fight very hard to get dogs treated for the tapeworm before they enter the country.” 

Iain Richards, the then SPVS president, said the country always put measures in place once a disease arrived –for example, blue tongue –rather than work to keep it out. 

Other members of the six-strong panel were Madeleine Campbell, president of the BEVA, and Keith Cutler, president of the BCVA. Dr Campbell said there were similar problems with equids and concerns that diseases would be imported. Mr Cutler observed that things always went wrong whenever animals crossed borders and stamps were required.

Question Time was chaired,as always, by John Tandy, a past president of the both the BVA and the SPVS, and sponsored by Dunlops. During the course of the lively hour-and-a-half session, questions were asked about: 

  • LVI fees and the tendering scheme being introduced by the Animal Health agency (reported in the last issue); 
  • the requirements for clinical governance in the practice standards scheme; 
  • the illegal supply of POM-V medicines via the internet; 
  • the profession’s obligations to provide out-of-hours service; 
  • the problems with breeding pedigree dogs; 
  • the profession’s relationships with the media; 
  • the future for general practitioners in light of increasing specialisation.

European studies 

The results of a cross-sectional survey conducted to estimate the prevalence of Echinococcus multilocularis and E. granulosus infections in domestic dogs and cats in Germany and other European countries were published in the Journal of Veterinary Parasitology in 2008. 

V. Dyachenko and colleagues from the Institute of Parasitology at the University of Leipzig reported on the examination of faecal samples of 21,588 dogs and 10,650 cats submitted to a veterinary laboratory between June 2004 and June2005. E. granulosus DNA was not detected in any sample but E. multilocularis positive samples were detected in dogs from Germany and in cats from Germany, Denmark and Holland. 

The results of another study looking at the epidemiology in Europe of E. multilocular is were published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research in 2008. 

Conducted by A. Konig,this examined the fears, attitudes and opinions of suburban residents in Munich with regards to urban foxes.

Foxes have moved into urban areas in large numbers throughout Central Europe and in Southern Germany in particular they are known to be carriers of E. multilocularis. 

Questionnaires were sent to all households with gardens and 779(31%) were returned. Although only a few people said they were afraid of foxes, 55% said they were afraid of the tapeworm. 

Four-fifths said they were in favour of worming the foxes. 

Most said they were pleased to see a fox in the community and felt the animals had a right to live. People were afraid of the tapeworm for various reasons including children in the household, increased knowledge of the subject or because it has increasingly become an issue.