Researchers are calling for a greater awareness of the dangers posed to animals and humans by canine vector borne diseases (CVBD). The call was put forth today at the 6th Canine Vector Borne World Forum in Nice, France. The forum is supported by Bayer Animal Health.
CVBD are diseases transmitted by parasites—also called vectors—such as ticks, fleas, sand flies and mosquitoes.
“A number of the CVBDs cause real suffering and even death in dogs, and many CVBDs represent a zoonotic risk,” said Dwight Bowman, Ph.D., a professor of parasitology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s vital that veterinarians and pet owners everywhere understand the seriousness of the threats posed, and take action to prevent transmission of these diseases.”
Martin Pfeffer, a professor at the Institute of Animal Hygiene and Veterinary Public Health in Germany, added, “Data presented here highlight the underestimation and underreporting of serious diseases such as Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE), despite their potential to threaten the life of infected animals. Like many of the CVBDs, TBE has spread beyond its traditional home and is being found across Europe and Asia, exposing previously unaffected populations to this serious disease. In light of the increasing geographical spread of diseases like TBE, veterinarians should ensure all dogs are protected from the threat of vectors that can transmit the organisms that may cause CVBD and should consider testing for ‘exotic’ or ‘rare’ diseases when diagnosing sick animals.”
The changing face of CVBD can be seen in the following cases, according to researchers:
• A group from the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro in Portugal reported the fist cases of clinical babesiosis by Babesiamicroti-like piroplasm outside of Spain. This form of babesiosis was previously unknown in Portugal, according to Professor Luis Cardoso. They found two infected adult dogs with a history of travel to endemic areas as well as infection in a puppy with no history of travel outside the country. “This suggests that either the disease is capable of being transmitted from mother to pup or that there is now a reservoir of infection in Portugal,” Cardoso said.
• The Department of Veterinary Public Health at the University of Bari, Italy, presented data suggesting that the common Brown Dog tick (Rhicephalus sanguineus) has the potential to be involved in the epidemiology of leishmaniosis, a disease that can prove fatal to dogs and humans. If the hypothesis is confirmed, the next step would be to investigate whether ticks could also transmit Leishmania infantum to dogs, which would dramatically increase the geographical reach of leishmaniosis, said Dr. Filipe Dantas-Torres. Currently, only sand flies are proven biological vectors of the Leishmania parasite, he added.
“These findings reinforce the message that tick attachment and sand fly bite prevention through a repellent parasiticide is a must for all dogs travelling to CVBD-endemic areas,” said Professor Domenico Otranto of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bari. “Not just because of the threat posed to the animal itself, but through the repellency of vectors we may also prevent the CVBD pathogens establishing in new, non-endemic areas and spreading via blood-sucking parasites and possibly also to the offspring of infected dogs.”