The risk of emerging infections in pets
Emerging infections in pets are a worry for many public health professionals, with Brucella canis infection, the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis and heartworm Dirofilaria immitis all in the spotlight. The importation of animals is a big risk factor for these conditions, as is the travel of pets abroad with their owners.
The import of companion animals like dogs and cats, as well as people taking their pets abroad with them on holiday, poses a risk that they could be carrying an emerging infectious disease into the UK. There are currently concerns around Brucella canis infection, brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis and heartworm Dirofilaria immitis (Wall, 2023) – all of which have varying effects on pets.
While animals are mainly affected, there are concerns around the risk some of these diseases may play to humans, and those working in veterinary practice may be particularly at risk.
Last month, when commenting on the King's speech which banned the live export of animals for slaughter, British Veterinary Association President Anna Judson said: ‘… the government needs to urgently turn its attention to strengthening rules on animal importation which are exposing the UK to the serious emerging diseases like B. canis.’