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Why we're sailing close to the wind; RECORD PETS.

Byline: By NEIL McINTOSH

FOR many years, our animals have enjoyed far better health status than those of the rest of Europe.

The sea around us formed a natural barrier to animal movements and our climate did not support the biting insects that frequently act as vectors for many diseases.

Now this has all changed. It is likely that the recent outbreak of Bluetongue, a nasty disease that affects cattle and sheep, originated in Belgium when the midges that spread the virus managed, for the first time, to over-winter.

Inexorably, Bluetongue has marched across Europe, infecting herds and flocks and causing pain and suffering. It was almost inevitable that it would arrive here.

If midges become infected it may be very hard to control.

It got me thinking that our pets might soon face similar exotic diseases that are spread by insect vectors. Lulled by a lack of rabies in this country, we are not used to considering the danger of our pets being bitten and smitten.

But there are many horrible diseases lurking, just waiting for a warm wind to blow in the wrong direction, including: Babesiosis - this particular delight is caused by the protozoan parasite, Babesia canis. It is spread by ticks and is prevalent in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Symptoms include anaemia, fever, weakness, lethargy, jaundice and multiple organ failure.

Treatment is complicated and there is no vaccine available.

Ehrlichiosis - a condition caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis, that invades blood cells.

Clinical signs vary from intermittent fever, lymph node enlargement, kidney and retinal haemorrhage, weight loss and eye problems to bone marrow suppression.

Treatment requires long-term antibiotics, in the early stages. It lurks with intent in Europe, USA and Africa. Leishmaniasis - another one of our little protozoan chums, Leishmania infantum is responsible for this chronic and incurableillness.

It is very common in countries around the Med and in South America. In Spain and Italy, nearly 90 per cent of dogs are affected. It is spread by biting sandflies and perhaps also by dog-to-dog contact.

The incubation period can be years and skin lesions with scaling and ulceration are the most obvious symptoms.

Heartworm - also known as Dirofilariasis, this despicable little worm plies its trade in Southern Europe, USA, Canada and Asia. It is common in Portugal, Greece, Italy and Southern France.

The larval stages are popped under the skin by a mosquito bite from where they meander to the right pulmonary artery and grow to form adults up to 30cm long.

Treatment runs a high risk of thromboembolism so prevention is paramount.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 27, 2007
Words:426
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