Exotic Pathogens in Imported Dogs

Radford G. Davis, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Iowa State University

ArticleLast Updated November 20232 min read
Print/View PDF
image source

In the Literature

Wright I, Whitfield V, Hanaghan R, Upjohn M, Boyden P. Analysis of exotic pathogens found in a large group of imported dogs following an animal welfare investigation. Vet Rec. 2023;193(9):e2996. doi:10.1002/vetr.2996

The Research …

Transporting dogs across borders and continents can risk the spread of undetected arthropod vectors and pathogens that can threaten animal and human health. Within the United Kingdom, there is concern for introduction of pathogens or vectors from dogs imported from Eastern and Southern Europe.

In this study, 151 dogs originating from ≥4 countries (64% from Romania) were confiscated as part of an animal welfare operation in the United Kingdom; 133 dogs were evaluated for clinical signs and evidence of infection with several vector-borne diseases and Brucella canis. The slide agglutination method was used to test for Brucella canis, and antigen testing was used to detect Dirofilaria immitis. PCR was used in all other vector-borne pathogen testing. Of the dogs tested, 28 were positive for 1 pathogen, and 4 were positive for 2 pathogens. Detected pathogens included Leishmania infantum (10.5%), Hepatozoon canis (9.6%), D immitis (4.1%), Babesia canis (2.3%), Brucella canis (1.7%), and Ehrlichia canis (1.5%). One dog originating from the United Kingdom was positive for L infantum. This study found no significant association between pathogens detected and clinical signs in dogs.

Importation of dogs into the United States is also a concern, with documented occurrences of dogs infected with rabies, Linguatula serrata, Spirocerca lupi and canine parvovirus, and leishmaniosis entering the country.1-8

… The Takeaways

Key pearls to put into practice:

  • Imported dogs should be thoroughly examined and treated for ectoparasites.

  • Testing imported dogs for pathogens native to their originating country should be discussed with pet owners. Dogs may not originate from the country from which they were imported; possible infectious agents should therefore be broadly considered.

  • Some infections (eg, Brucella canis, Leishmania infantum, chronic ehrlichiosis) may take months or years to develop clinical signs. Early screening can aid in detecting these infections, reducing morbidity and mortality, reducing suffering through early treatment, and preventing transmission.

  • Imported dogs may have subclinical infections; therefore, clinical signs should not be relied on as indicators.

Related content: Top 5 Tips for Animal Transportation