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Vets warn of disease threat to UK pets from overseas rescue dogs

The i logo The i 07/09/2018 Padraic Flanagan
a dog looking at the camera © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Well-meaning animal lovers who import rescue dogs from abroad are risking the health of millions of UK pets, vets are warning.

The British Veterinary Association is urging prospective owners to safeguard the country’s dog population by rehoming dogs from within the UK instead.

Nine out of ten vets are “concerned” by the growing numbers of rescue dogs from abroad, according to figures from the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary profession survey.

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Three-quarters of the country’s pet specialists claim the numbers have increased over the last year, it reveals.


Stray dogs from abroad are likely to have unknown health histories and could harbour undetected and potentially life-threatening exotic diseases not traditionally seen in the UK, says the BVA.

Threats such as leishmaniasis, rabies, canine babesiosis and heartworm could be present without showing any outward clinical symptoms, it adds.

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Such chronically infected ‘Trojan’, or carrier, dogs could then pass on the infections to susceptible pets and, in the case of some diseases, to humans as well.

The BVA’s survey shows that 40 per cent of vets have seen new or rare conditions in their practice over the last year that are associated with imported dogs, most commonly the potentially fatal disease leishmaniasis.


British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick 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.

“As vets, we are extremely concerned about the risks posed by rescuing dogs with unknown health histories from abroad and, while it may sound harsh, we believe that the wider consequences for the UK dog population must outweigh the benefit to an individual animal being imported.

“With thousands of dogs needing homes within the UK, I would urge anyone looking to get a pet to adopt from a UK rehoming charity or welfare organisation instead. If you already own a rescue dog from abroad, approach your local vet for advice on testing and treatment for any underlying conditions.”


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