What diseases can bring dogs from abroad?

Stray dogs

Many people flirt with the idea of taking in dogs from abroad, z. B. often from Romania, Hungary, Greece or Spain. Adopting a foreign dog can present the new owners with several challenges. In addition to a sometimes different socialization in the home country, the issue of diseases plays an important role. What diseases can bring dogs from abroad and how can they be treated?

Necessary vaccinations for foreign dogs

Whoever adopts a dog from abroad normally assumes that it is completely vaccinated and free of parasites. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed. In principle, only dogs with a valid vaccination against distemper, parvovirosis, leptospirosis, hepatitis and kennel cough as well as with a rabies vaccination may be imported into Germany. Rabies vaccination of animals is important for owners, as rabies in humans is almost always fatal if one is not vaccinated against it oneself.

But even if dogs, which come from abroad, have the necessary papers and possibly even examinations, an illness is not to be excluded. Some diseases can also cause signs of illness only after a long period of time, such as leishmaniasis. This and the fact that the treatment of such diseases is sometimes associated with not inconsiderable costs, should be aware of the future dog owners before adoption.

Which diseases can be brought in by dogs from abroad??

There are different diseases that dogs imported from abroad can be ill with. Mostly these are diseases that are common especially in southern countries and often those that are transmitted by parasites. Such diseases are referred to by veterinarians as "vector-borne diseases" (VBD). In these diseases the pathogens (bacteria, viruses but also parasites like worms or protozoa) are transmitted by vectors (like ticks, mosquitoes, fleas or lice). This means ticks or mosquitoes serve as vectors and infect dogs by bites or stings with the respective pathogens. It should not be forgotten that vacations with dogs in certain countries are also associated with a risk of infection with these diseases. If you want to take your dog on vacation, think early about an appropriate parasite protection. Where which protection is important, you can find out in our free travel test.

The most common diseases in dogs from abroad include: Leishmaniasis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, skin and heartworms, and hepatozoonosis. These are described in more detail below.

Leishmaniasis in dogs

The Leishmaniasis is one of the most serious canine diseases caused by parasites, which is imported from abroad. It is caused by Leishmania infantum, a tiny unicellular parasite (protozoan), which is transmitted to dogs by sandflies. If no appropriate therapy is initiated, up to 90% of affected dogs can die within one year in a severe course. There are various medicinal treatment options, but unfortunately these do not usually cure leishmaniasis completely. Since it is usually necessary to treat the diseased dogs for months or even years with the drugs, the treatment can be correspondingly costly. Even after the symptoms of the disease have subsided as a result of the therapy, regular check-ups are necessary to prevent a relapse and, in case of doubt, to start a new treatment.

The distribution area of the pathogen includes in particular the Mediterranean region, Africa and the Middle East. The pathogen was also found in more than one in five shelter dogs in studies z. B. detected in Italy or Romania. However, there have also been isolated cases in southern Switzerland and southwestern Germany. One reason for the high proportion of infected dogs in some countries is the fact that stray dogs or ticks are often infected with the disease. Street dogs are more frequently exposed to mosquito bites.

The pathogen Leishmania infantum is generally not transmitted from dogs to humans, but humans can also be infected by the sandfly. If people with a weak immune system contract leishmaniasis – such as children or people receiving cancer therapy or taking drugs that weaken the immune system, such as after organ transplants – the disease can be life-threatening without treatment. Although it is very unlikely, there is a theoretical possibility that the pathogen could be transmitted to humans via open wounds or eczema, which is why the RKI recommends that the aforementioned groups of people should not have contact with dogs suffering from leishmaniasis.

  • Dogs that have leishmaniasis may show the following symptoms: Lack of appetite, weight loss, weakness, enlarged lymph nodes, hair loss, (scaly) skin changes, claw changes, sometimes fever, lameness, diarrhea, eye infections, kidney failure.

Babesiosis in dogs

The Babesiosis in dogs, is caused by protozoa from the genus Babesia caused by various species of ticks transmitted. A representative of the group of these parasites is Babesia canis, the tick which is transmitted by the so called stray tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) is transmitted. There are various treatment options for canine babesiosis, depending on the type of pathogen, which must be determined in advance by blood testing. The B. canis-Infection is the most pathogenic form of babesiosis found in dogs in Europe and can vary in severity in affected dogs, depending on the strain of the pathogen. Without treatment, it often takes a fatal outcome within a short time.

  • Dogs infected with B. canis are infected may show the following symptoms: immediately to three weeks after infection, high fever, fatigue, weakness, emaciation, fever, changing increase in body temperature, pale, sometimes yellow mucous membranes and dark discoloration of the urine, central nervous disorders.
  • Where is the B. canis-Babesiosis often spread? For example in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and regionally in Central and Eastern Europe up to the Baltic States.

Ehrlichiosis in dogs

The (canine monocytic) ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection, which also often requires lifelong treatment with various drugs. Ehrlichiosis can be fatal.

  • Dogs suffering from ehrlichiosis may show the following symptoms: Fatigue, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes, pale mucous membranes, skin bleeding, water retention (edema) in the hind limbs, blood in the urine, possibly. Respiratory distress, eye changes to blindness, rarely lameness.
  • Common in southern Europe.

Anaplasmosis in dogs

Anaplasmosis is caused in dogs by infection with bacterial pathogens Anaplasma phagocytophilum or Anaplasma platys triggered. The former causes the so-called canine, granulocytic anaplasmosis (carrier is the common wood tick Ixodes ricinus) and the latter the so-called canine cyclic thrombocytopenia (carrier the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus) from. Canine granzlocytic anaplasmosis is widespread in Germany and is not discussed in detail here. Canine cyclic thrombocytopenia, in simple terms, represents a blood disorder that results from a deficiency of platelets (thrombocytes). Platelets are important for blood clotting.

Also regardless of whether there are signs of disease, medical treatment is advisable and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Anaplasma platys cannot be completely eliminated, which is why dogs should be regularly monitored even after symptoms have subsided.

  • Dogs affected with anaplasmosis may show the following symptoms: Skin hemorrhages, lassitude, weakness, fever, lymph node swelling.
  • Anaplasmosis is common in the Mediterranean region.

Heart and skin worms in dogs

So far come Skin worms (Dirofilaria repens) and Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) mostly with dogs from Southern Europe to Germany and the probability of infection in Germany is extremely low. In the last decade, however, skin worm infections have already been detected regionally in dogs and sporadically in mosquitoes in Germany. While skin worms in dogs usually cause only mild skin symptoms (nodules, itching or inflammation), an untreated infection with heartworms in dogs usually leads to a severe course and can be life-threatening. There are drugs for the treatment of a heartworm infection, but depending on the degree of the already developed disease symptoms and intensity of infection, it is often no longer successful. Due to the complications that often accompany the treatment, it is advisable to have the therapy carried out by veterinary specialists.

Infected dogs can serve as a reservoir for the pathogen, which can then be spread by domestic mosquitoes. For this reason, it is especially important to keep the number of infected dogs low, or. to treat them. The skin and heartworms can also be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

  • Dogs infected with heartworms may show the following symptoms: No to severe impairment, depending on the intensity and duration of infection. Initially, mainly performance impairments and then progressively symptoms of illness affecting heart and lung function occur, such as coughing, shortness of breath, hemolysis, cardiac dysfunction, shock-like conditions, blood vessel blockages.
  • Dogs infected with skin worms may show the following symptoms: Skin nodules or rashes, and inflammation
  • Common distribution of heart and skin worms: southern and eastern Europe.

Hepatozoonosis in dogs

From the Hepatozoonosis dogs, as reservoir hosts especially foxes, are affected. It is caused by the pathogen Hepatozoon canis which is found in the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and is transmitted when the tick is swallowed. This tick species is currently not native to Germany. The disease can heal spontaneously, but can also be fatal. Often a long-term therapy is necessary, whereby an improvement of the health condition is achieved, but mostly no elimination of the pathogen. Hepatozoonosis can therefore sometimes reappear several months after completion of treatment.

  • Dogs that have contracted hepatozoonosis may show the following symptoms: irregular fever, loss of appetite, emaciation, swelling of the lymph nodes, lameness.
  • Common spread of hepatozoonosis: southern Europe

Requirements of the health authorities for dogs from abroad

Many of the illnesses initially proceed insidiously without noticeable symptoms and only become noticeable after months or even years. When vacationing with dogs abroad, it is therefore important to take tick and, depending on the region/country, mosquito prophylaxis (repellents). For dogs adopted from abroad, comprehensive prophylaxis is unfortunately not possible, so it is urgent that animals imported from affected areas are tested for these pathogens. Depending on the disease, this can occur several weeks or months after entry at the earliest.

It is especially not advisable to bring dogs to Germany as a private person, as they must meet certain animal health requirements of the health authorities (chip, EU pet passport and proof of all necessary vaccinations).

An overview of the most common parasite-borne diseases in dogs from abroad is also provided by the ESCCAP checklist "Checklist for Dogs from Abroad

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