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The tick & tapeworm timebomb

CONCERN OVER tick and tapeworm infection of dogs and cats travelling abroad was brought into sharp relief recently with the death of this year’s Crufts Gundog Group winner, Flatcoated Retriever Such/NuCh/Finu Ch/Pol Ch Almanza Far & Fly who became ill whilst being shown in the UK then returned to his owner’s native Norway where he was diagosed by a vet to be suffering from a tick borne disease and put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

But there are growing fears that some unscrupulous owners are cheating the system whereby dog and cats are not being checked for ticks and tapeworms by foreign vets before they re-enter the UK.

Dr Raymond Wigley, of the Singapura Cat Club explains how the system is far from perfect.
Currently it is possible to take animals in and out of the UK if they are in possession of an EU Pet Passport. DEFRA’s animal health wehbsite shows the main requirements for the isue of the necessary dosumentation and the copnditions surrounding the EU Pet Passport, which incorporates the UK’s own Pet Travel Scheme.

Details on the pet’s passport include:

‘The passport contains details of the pet owner and the animal including its microchip number, the date it was microchipped, rabies vaccination and blood test details. There are also sections to record the tick and tapeworm treatment. Dogs and cats entering or re-entering the UK need to comply with all these requirements. If the animal is going to an EU country and not returning to the UK, all that will be required are the microchip and vaccination details recorded in a passport*.’
The Tick and Tapeworm requirement is that the treatment must be carried out by a vet in the country whwere the animal is staying at least 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before the pet is checked in with the transport company. It goes on to say ....’The treatment must be carried out EVERYTIME a pet enters the UK. ......’

This means that if you are going to and from the continent on shows on a regular basis say two or three times per month then the animal must be treated EVERY TIME you return.

The drug normally given for Ticks is ‘Frontline’ but the drug for the tapeworm is a drug called Praziquantel trade marked ‘Droncit as IV.’

The drug is effective against the most common tapeworm but only lasts for 36 hours in the system before being metaboised by the liver and is no longer present in the animal.

The pharmaeceutical company Bayer who manufacture the drug carried out trials on its use and in a conversation [with me] stated that they only tested it up to five times the dose on one occasion on a group of cats and dogs without any notable side effects.

When asked about repeated prolonged used as in animals being treated two or three times per month for several years they expressed concern and stated that the drug had not been tested to this extent so they could not state categorically that it was safe to continue use. They also stated that they had been in conversation with DEFRA on this point and received no response.
The drug does have side effects like vomiting, stomach cramps, pain at injection site, acute liver failure in extreme cases. It has not been tested for reaction to injestion by, say,an accompanying animal in the same carrier grooming at the point of injection or treatment. This has led to some pet owners, fearful for their pets’ health, trying to cheat the system.

The system is cheated in the following ways:

• By obtaining a stamp and signature of a veterinarian at a show abroad, but leaving the date out in case of ferry delays etc. Then not actually treating the animal with the drug at all.

• Putting their own date into the passport to correspond with the timescales as required and then bringing their animal back into the UK untreated.

The problems that exist are thus:

• The animal remembers the pain issue and then becomes restless everytime it is put in a carrier even if travelling to a local show.

• Cats and dogs are being taken around the UK untreated against a parasite that can kill.

• The situation makes a mockery of the regulations surrounding vaccinations and treatments for infectious diseases that exist in Europe but currently not in the UK.

It is possible to reduce the treatment cycle for the tapeworm but such a move will require coopoeration from all parties, owners, government and veterinarians in the UK.

If something is not done and soon and more untested cats and dogs are entering the UK it is only a question of time beiong an anim al enters the UK infected with ticks or tapeworms and cross infection of other animals is not just possible, but extremely likely. Huimans too will be at risk.

It is not too much of an exagerration to say that we are sitting on a timebomb that is just waiting to explode.