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Protecting pets and humans from threats

by
01 April 2010, at 1:00am

WITH just under 50% of all UK households owning a pet and the rise in internationalisation, not to mention the various planned changes to pet legislation, it is even more important than ever to be aware of the specific parasitic situations relevant to the UK. 

ESCCAP UK has taken it upon themselves to provide an authoritative and independent voice to raise awareness about the dangers of parasites affecting the UK and the importance of effective parasitological control. 

In order to advise the best possible action to protect pets and owners against parasitic infections, it is important to keep up to date with the most recent developments. 

ESCCAP UK is the UK national association of the European Scientific Counsel for Companion Animal Parasites, and is continually working towards the raising of awareness, and prevention, of parasites in pets. 

ESCCAP UK believes in the importance of providing UK specific information to veterinary and animal care professionals in order to raise awareness about risks associated with parasite infections and to help protect UK pets and humans from potentially harmful parasitic infections, both within the UK and migrating to the UK from abroad. 

The effective control of pet parasites is important for the health and well-being of both companion animals and humans, with some parasitic diseases having zoonotic potential. Furthermore, in a world of increased travel and global warming, the UK is constantly under threat from new, and some potentially more dangerous, parasitic infections migrating to the UK from abroad. 

ESCCAP UK is working closely with European colleagues to monitor the parasitological status across Europe and looking at how the spread of parasites will impact the UK pet population in the future. 

Lungworm, travelling pets, and the PETS derogation are just some of the hot topics in veterinary parasitology today. This article will explore these topics and others in more detail in order to clarify the most recent situations and their relevance to the health and well-being of UK pets and their owners. 

“Lungworms”, particularly the (French) heartworm Angiostrongylus vasorum, have gained both in prevalence and airtime over the past few years, and whilst research continues to be needed to better understand the causes of and pattern of spread, it is important to consider lungworm control in dogs where there is evidence of infection in a local area and /or eating slugs and snails; also to consider lungworm infection as a differential of, for example, coughing. 

By the time that you are reading this the European Parliament will have completed its consideration of the proposal to extend the tick and tapeworm derogation for the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Malta within the EU legislation for the noncommercial movement of pets, better know as PETS. With luck, the derogation will have been temporarily extended until December 2011. This will provide the UK with the time (so long as it acts with urgency) to compile a sound case for permanent measures to be put into the legislation. 

Without entry treatment in place it is almost certainly only a matter of time before E. multilocularis establishes in the UK in the fox, and the dog and cat populations. 

If this were to happen there could be a cultural shift in attitude to the interaction between dogs and humans, with less tolerance of canine closeness. E. multilocularis infection is particularly insidious: clear signs of its presence are unlikely and since its incubation in humans takes a decade or more, it could be years before its presence is recognised. 

Across Europe climate change and travel are factors that appear to be assisting parasite infections to spread. For example, “true” heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, has occurred in southern Switzerland. Both babesiosis and Dirofilaria repens (a subcutaneous worm related to heartworm) have been identified in non-travelled dogs in the Netherlands. 

Prediction of the likely effects of climate change on parasites can be difficult. For example, with ticks it is not only the temperature but also factors such as seasonality, precipitation and even the macrohabitat that may alter and favour tick biology more or possibly less. 

As people begin to plan for their summer holidays, it is critical that they plan to protect their pets from parasites whilst on holiday. This is particularly a challenge with transient insects that may transmit infections as they feed. Owners should be made aware that the mandatory treatments do not address protection of the animal from these parasites whilst they are abroad. 

It is important that we consider these topics seriously and remain aware of the parasitic situations in the UK in order to protect the UK pet and human populations from these parasitic threats. 

ESCCAP UK has two websites providing advice and information for both veterinary and animal care professionals (www.esccapuk.org.uk) and pet owners (www.petparasites.co.uk). ESCCAP UK also provides a number of informative leaflets for pet owners, perfect for distribution within veterinary surgeries or animal care centres, and the “Dog Worm Parasite Wheel”, specifically designed for vet nurses as a source of reference and a learning aid. 

If you are interested in finding out more about the resources and information that ESCCAP UK has to offer, please visit www.esccapuk.org.uk or e-mail info@esccapuk.org.uk.