65 percent of UK vets see increase in vector-borne diseases - Veterinary Practice
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65 percent of UK vets see increase in vector-borne diseases

International group of 19 leading scientists reveal seasonal changes such as warmer weather now pose a direct threat to pets

MSD Animal Health announced the Protect Our Future Too initiative (#Protectourfuturetoo) across more than 30 countries in Europe, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East. Its principal aim is to raise awareness of the parasite and associated risks to household pets caused by seasonal changes, such as warmer months in autumn and winter, as well as higher temperatures in general. It will provide information to owners of the risks to their pets, encouraging them to seek advice from their veterinary clinic on year-round parasite control.

The initative follows the conclusions of an international roundtable meeting of 19 European specialists in parasitology, animal behaviour and zoonotic diseases that was hosted by the initiative. Participants shared a range of insights, and their conclusions highlight that seasonal changes are having a wide range of effects on the health of household pets. Environmental changes have been shown to lead to an increase in parasites such as ticks, which are able to survive for longer in warmer climates, and recent published studies have highlighted the problem of flea infestations being reported by vets in some animals that have been treated with “in date” parasiticides. Roundtable participants concluded that seasonal change is having an effect on the distribution of parasites like ticks, and also increasing their activity throughout the year, which is in turn exposing our pets, and the family, to increased risk of disease.

The risks to pets and human health from vector-borne diseases has been well described, and maintaining a healthy pet helps ensure they are a happy pet and increases the pet / owner bond. A recent study from UK vet practices has shown that 1 in 4 cats (28 percent) and 1 in 7 dogs (14 percent) attending vet clinics for routine matters such as health checks and vaccinations were found to have fleas. This is of concern as 11 percent of the fleas found on cats and dogs were shown to be carrying Bartonella bacteria and a further 5 percent carrying Rickettsia felis bacteria – both of which can cause disease in animals and humans.

These effects match observations by vets in the UK. According to UK data from a recent international survey conducted by the initiative, more than half of UK vets believe that environmental changes have impacted the health of pets. A parallel survey among pet owners revealed that seven out of ten pet owners did not feel fully informed about the subject. Three out of five pet owners (62 percent) seek such advice from a vet.

TV Vet James Greenwood, who practices in Bristol, is an ambassador for the Protect Our Future Too initiative. He commented: “Pet owners aren’t aware of the risks the warmer weather poses to pets, but really value the kind of information and advice that is provided in a vet surgery. Now, more than ever, we’ve got a job to do to ensure we’re communicating these risks and educating pet owners to protect their pets – and themselves – all year round.”

The Protect Our Future Too initiative is also supported by Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at the University of Bristol, who commented: “We know that controlling parasites like fleas is really difficult because they can survive for a relatively long time without a host, and only a short break in anti-parasite treatment can allow them to re-establish themselves on an animal. Whereas once owners might have been less likely to treat their pets during the winter months, seasonal changes mean that parasites are more likely to become a year-round problem now, so it’s really important that owners seek the advice of a vet to make sure their pets – and they – are continuously protected.”

In light of these concerns vets are being actively encouraged to speak to their clients and educate them about the elevated risk of parasites on their pet’s health all year round.

Additional information on the Protect Our Future Too initiative is available online.

References

Rosatti, A-R.

2017

Global Warming and Its Health Impact. Int J Occup Environ Med. 2017 Jan;8(1):7-20

Cooper, Nixon, E., Vineer, H., Abdullah, S., Newbury, H., and Wall, R.

2020

Fleas infesting cats and dogs in Great Britain; spatial distribution of infestation risk and its relation to treatment. Medical and Veterinary Entomology

Abdullah, S., Helps, C., Tasker, S., Newbury, H., and Wall, R.

2019

Pathogens in fleas collected from cats and dogs: distribution and prevalence in the UK. Parasites & Vectors 12:71

Abdullah, S., Lait, P., Helps, S., Newbury, H., and Wall, R.

2020

The Prevalence of Rickettsia Felis DNA in Fleas Collected From Cats and Dogs in the UK. Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 282, 2020, p. 109143

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