Pets are normally sheltered from the harsh realities of wild living. But across Europe, increasing temperatures will expose pets to new infectious diseases spread by ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, according to new research.
Tick populations already appear to be increasing with the change in seasons. As winters become milder, ticks are becoming active all year round.
The European dog tick is transmitting a malaria-like disease, canine babesiosis, into countries where it was once rare including Belgium, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Ixodes ticks are living at greater densities across Europe, increasing their risk of passing tick-borne encephalitis to horses and dogs.
Cat flea typhus, still a rare disease, may also become more common in both cats and dogs, according to Frederic Beugnet of Merial Animal Health in Lyon, France.
In a separate paper, Claudio Genchi of the University of Milan, Italy, has found that dogs in central Europe will increasingly become vulnerable to the roundworm dirofilaria, spread by mosquitoes, as summer temperatures climb high enough for the parasite to incubate in its fly host.
Susan Shaw and colleagues at the University of Bristol, UK, have also found a significant reservoir of canine leishmaniosis in dogs living in the southern UK. If climate change allows sandflies to spread into the country, there is a real danger the disease could spread, they warn.
Journal references: Veterinary Parasitology, DOIs: Beugnet: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.03.028, Genchi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.03.026, Shaw: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.03.025
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