A dog has been killed by a tropical disease which can be passed to humans in what is thought to be the first recorded fatal case in the UK.
Vets say cases of leishmaniasis are likely to rise at a time where more and more people are taking their dogs abroad and importing them from overseas.
The three-year-old Shih Tzu suffered from vomiting, weight loss and diarrhoea over three weeks before dying – but had never left the country.
Vets think he caught the parasite from another dog he lived with who came over from Spain and was put down six months after developing leishmaniasis.
Humans can’t catch leishmaniasis directly from dogs, but sand flies, which are found in tropical regions and parts of southern Europe, can bite animals and then pass the disease onto people.
Symptoms include breathing problems and disfigured airways, swollen livers and spleens, fevers and weight loss.
The disease can be spread by 20 known parasites, reports Mail Online.
A team from the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, Hertfordshire who examined the dog said as far as they knew, this was the first case of a dog in the UK catching the disease without travelling to an area where it is common.
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They said the Shih Tzu was deficient in blood cells, showed signs of liver disease and had too much calcium in his blood, which can weaken bones, create kidney stones and interfere with brain and heart function.
Earlier this year an English Pointer who never left Essex developed leishmaniasis, with vets believing his owners could have brought sand flies back from spain in their luggage.
The three-year-old dog, who broke out with an eczema-like reaction and hair loss, was treated by staff at Mount Veterinary Practice in Fleetwood, Lancashire.
Writing for Vet Record, the team warned the public ‘should not be complacent’ about the infection spreading across the UK despite its lack of sand flies.
They said: ‘The increased importation of infected dogs into the UK also makes incidental socialising with infected dogs increasingly likely.’
According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Ibizan Hounds, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Cocker Spaniels and Boxers may be at less risk of developing the disease.
British Veterinary Association (BVA) junior vice president Daniella Dos Santos told the British Medical Journal the increase in the disease in non-endemic areas is ‘extremely concerning.’
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She said more than a quarter of vets surveyed by the BVA last year reported cases of the illness and warned against ‘trojan’ rescue dogs from abroad with unknown health histories.
Ms Santos recommended owners seek advice from a vet before travelling abroad with their dogs and to have imported pets tested.
‘Anyone looking to get a dog should consider adopting from a UK rehoming charity or welfare organisation instead of rescuing from abroad as the unintended consequences from trojan can be severe for the health and welfare of UK’s pets’, she added.