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PETS AND THEIR PEOPLE: PEOPLE INVESTIGATION - DEADLY PERIL OF PET PASSPORTS; Holiday dogs killed by horrific tropical disease.


A COUPLE lost their lovable terrier to a horrific tropical disease - just because they took him on holiday across the Channel.

Brian and Jean Coleman were heartbroken when their loyal West Highland White Hamie was killed by an infection caught in France.

And the soaring popularity of the passports-for-pets scheme means more and more dogs like theirs are being struck down by terrible tropical diseases previously unknown in Britain.

The number of cases has DOUBLED in two years and vets warn that the diseases can spread to other domestic pets back home.

Hamie contracted babesiosis - one of the most horrific of the infections - when the Colemans took him to their cottage in the Dordogne region. He became so desperately ill when they returned home to South Shields, Tyneside, they told the vet to switch off his respirator.

Retired teacher Brian, 55, said: "We were shattered. He was only 16 months old and had brought us so much joy. I had never heard of the disease. If we had known about this we would never have taken Hamie to France."

About 150,000 dogs are expected to travel to Europe with their owners this summer under the passports scheme introduced in 2000.

Dr Jackie Barber, of the School of Tropical Medicine, said: "We don't associate Europe with tropical diseases in humans but for animals it is like travelling in Africa. Drugs to treat these diseases are not yet available in this country so it is vital that a diagnosis is made quickly or the pet may die. Our biggest fear is that these diseases will multiply here and get a permanent foothold."

Most tropical infections picked up in France, Spain, Italy and the Canary Islands are passed on by parasites and ticks and are similar to human diseases like malaria.

Last year 37 dogs - almost half of those tested at the school - had leishmaniasis, an incurable disease passed on by sandflies. Symptoms include weight loss, eye disease and kidney failure.

Dr Barber said: "Some of the diseases, such as babesiosis, can develop and kill within a couple of weeks. Others have incubation periods of months or even years."

The school has now launched Testapet, a scheme to help vets detect foreign diseases quickly.

And Brian Coleman said: "I hope our terrible experience can serve as a warning."

Erhlichiosis Babesiosis

DISEASE affects white blood cells, triggering fever. Some dogs recover but others suffer immune system problems and bleeding. Spread by ticks.CAN kill in two weeks. It hits red blood cells, causing anaemia. Common in France but infected ticks are found in most European countries.


VICTIMS suffer skin problems, weight loss, eye disease, lameness and kidney failure. Cure is difficult. Common around the Mediterranean.


LARGE roundworms live in blood vessels, causing heart failure and breathing problems.

Spread by mosquitoes. Treatment is difficult and costly.

What to look for

WATCH out for tiredness, weight loss or bleeding in your pet. Check daily for tick or mosquito bites on holiday. Consult a vet as soon as possible if you are worried. Visit


SO CLOSE: Brian holds terrier Hamie on holiday a week before his pet died; WARNING: Dr Barber
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 27, 2004
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