Health issues to be aware of when taking pets abroad

There are five significant diseases you should know about:


Caused by a microscopic nematode worm Dirofilaria Immitis. It is present throughout Europe. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. The worms then migrate to the chest where they can cause serious heart disease.

Protecting against heartworm

There are several drugs licensed in the UK against heartworm. Some are of the "spot-on" variety such as STRONGHOLD or ADVOCATE. The other is a worming preparation called MILBEMAX. Either should be administered at least one month before travelling to Europe, administered every 4 weeks whilst abroad and continued for at least one month after return to UK.. MILBEMAX is probably the most effective and has the added advantage of controlling the tapeworm Echinococcus (see below).


Caused by a blood parasite Ehrlichia canis. Its European distribution is similar to that for heartworm i.e. throughout Europe. The disease is transmitted by ticks and gets into the bloodstream where it can cause fever and a variety of blood disorders. Many animals recover spontaneously but others (particularly German Shepherd dogs and young animals) can become persistently infected and chronically ill.

Protection against Ehrlichia

Prevention is aimed at controlling the ticks that transmit the disease. Several products are available in the UK against ticks including spot-ons such as VECTRA 3D.These should be administered every 4 weeks. Also available is BRAVECTO a tablet which offers 12 weeks protection and appears very effective. If you are travelling to an area where infection with this parasite is known to be a particular problem then prophylactic antibiotic medication can be used.


Caused by the blood parasite Babesia Canis. This is similar to Ehrlichosis; it is also a blood parasite and is transmitted by ticks. It is more widespread throughout Europe. Treatment is difficult and often unsuccessful.

Protection against Babesia

Prevention is best achieved by tick control - see under Ehrlichosis. A vaccine and prophylactic antibiotics for this disease are available in France but not in the UK. If you are travelling to an area with a particular problem with this disease you should seek local veterinary advice.
Caused by the blood parasite Babesia Canis. This is similar to Ehrlichosis; it is also a blood parasite and is transmitted by ticks. It is more widespread throughout Europe. Treatment is difficult and often unsuccessful.


Caused by a parasite: Leishmania. This disease occurs in southern Europe especially round the Mediterranean coast and islands. This tends to be a slow chronic disease which may not manifest until months or even years after infection. It can cause a variety of problems including skin problems, eye infections, kidney disease and joint pains.

Disease is usually chronic, treatment is expensive and rarely successful. The most serious aspect of Leishmaniasis is that it is zoonotic i.e. it can be transmitted from animals to humans and children are particularly vulnerable.

Consequently, most animals positively diagnosed with leishmaniasis are put to sleep. The disease is transmitted by sandflies.

There are currently 3 products available for control of sandflies: Vectra 3DAdvantix and Scalibor insecticidal collars containing deltamethrin. 

Sandflies are nocturnal and usually found outdoors so keeping dogs animals indoors at night should help reduce the risk of disease.  Sandflies also dislike moving air so that a fan kept in the room in which your pet sleeps would offer some additional protection.

Canileish, a vaccine against Leishmania is now available.  Although initially quite expensive if you are spending any length of time in endemic areas it would be worth considering this.  Please ask at Reception for details.

Virbac have produced this Client Leaflet which also includes a useful information The map below is taken from and shows where Leishmaniasis is prevalent.


Echinococcus is a tapeworm which inhabits the intestines. The parasite causes minimal harm to dogs but the parasite can be passed on to humans in whom it can cause fatal disease. It is for this reason that it is sensible to treat dogs regularly to keep them free of this parasite and why it is compulsory for treatment to be given before return to the UK.

Control of Echinococcus:
Monthly treatment with the drug praziquantel is highly effective. Preparations containing praziquantel include Droncit, Drontal and Milbemax.



As these diseases are transmitted by insects control measures will usually be needed from March to November:

(1) Administer Milbemax every month starting 1 month before travelling and continuing for at least 1 month after return

(2) Administer Vetra 3D or another product licensed for ticks every month whilst abroad or use Bravecto every 3 months.

(3) If visiting Southern Europe use Vectra 3D or a Scalibor collar (DOGS ONLY) and keep animals indoors at night with a fan in these areas. Consider vaccination with Canileish.

(4) Seek local veterinary advice to find out if any other regular treatment is recommended in the area in which you are staying.

The simplest and most comprehensive combination is probably monthly use of Milbemax tablets and Vectra 3D spot-on or Milbemax tablets (monthly) with Bravecto (12 weekly).

Inform your vet that your pet has been abroad and that this has been noted on your records. Veterinary surgeons and veterinary laboratories do not routinely check for these diseases and they can easily be missed if your vet is not aware that your pet has been to Europe.