As experts from around the world met in New York this week they discussed the need for greater understanding of the threat posed by ticks, fleas and sand flies. Leading scientists called on veterinarians and dog-owners around the world to take action to protect dogs and humans from potentially lethal diseases.
Ticks, mosquitoes, fleas and, in some countries, sand flies are critical in the transmission of diseases to both dogs and humans, including life-threatening conditions such as Lyme Disease, Leishmaniasis and other important diseases such as Ehrlichiosis. "These so-called CVBDs (canine vector borne diseases) that were once considered exotic or unusual are now commonly extending their distribution thanks to the increase in pet travel and, in part, to changes in climate," stated Professor Gioia Capelli of the Parasitology and Ecopathology laboratory, Experimental Institute for Animal Diseases Control of Northern Italy (IZSVe). "Today, with the very latest highly sensitive diagnostic techniques, known as PCR and serology tests, we are able to accurately detect these infectious agents, improve diagnosis and rapidly grow our understanding of these life threatening diseases. Also, DNA-based techniques look set to provide useful information for treatment."
Dr Torsten Naucke from the Institute for Zoology, Division of Parasitology, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany called for veterinarians and pet owners to recognise the risks posed by failing to adequately protect dogs, particularly when travelling into higher challenge areas when holidaying with their owners. "Many people think these parasites are just an unpleasant but harmless nuisance, but far from it. The diseases they spread pose a real threat to the health of dogs and humans. An important prevention measure for dogs from CVBDs is to ensure they are treated with an effective, repellent insecticide to minimise the risk of disease transmission."
Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, of North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine pointed out the role veterinarians play in preventing the spread of CVBDs, "Veterinarians are often the first responders, from an animal and public health perspective, to see evidence of their spread, but may not recognize the symptoms or fully understand the public health ramification of these diseases. I would call on all veterinarians to pay attention to the possible appearance of CVBDs, even in areas where they have never been seen before."
These views were echoed by Peter Irwin, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Western Australia, "Because of their close proximity to humans and their susceptibility to infection, dogs are uniquely poised to function as a sentinel for human disease risks from tickborne pathogens. Veterinarians should be educated about owner risks when these infections are diagnosed in dogs, and should take an active role in explaining risks to clients. People who find ticks on their dogs should be aware that such events can signal a personal risk of exposure to themselves and their families, even if human tick bites have not been recognized."
These warnings came as a multidisciplinary group of experts from around the world met at the 5th World CVBD Forum in New York to discuss the latest on research and prevention of CVBDs. The CVBD World Forum is supported by Bayer Animal Health as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the scientific community in its fight against parasites worldwide.
"Latest data from the CVBD World Forum flags a clear need for increased disease prevention. We are committed to supporting this important international information exchange and are dedicated to helping increase awareness of regional CVBD risks", said Sarah Weston, Global Vet Services Manager, Bayer Animal Health. "Dogs are dearly loved members of many families around the world, sharing the homes and day to day lives of their owners. It is essential for veterinarians to remain vigilant for these diseases that can lurk unseen in family pets and to work with owners to educate them about prevention. For veterinarians who are not yet seeing many dogs with these diseases, we hope that they become better-versed in the prevention of CVBD and that they become alert to the signs and symptoms of these potentially lethal diseases."