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Rescue dogs warning after rise in UK heartworm cases

The European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites UK and Ireland is being alerted to increasing numbers of heartworm-positive dogs being imported from southern and eastern Europe.

Calls have been made for vigilance and appropriate testing for heartworm in imported dogs after a spike in reported UK cases.

Ian Wright, head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) UK and Ireland, said the problem stems from imported rescue dogs – particularly from Romania and Bulgaria.

Undiagnosed cases

He said: “While attention has been rightly focused on increasing cases of Leshmania infantum in imported rescue dogs, ESCCAP UK and Ireland is being alerted to increasing numbers of heartworm-positive dogs being imported from southern and eastern Europe.

“Some of these cases are going undiagnosed before arrival [into] the UK, while others have already tested positive.

“There has been a suggestion from some groups and vets in eastern Europe that heartworm infections are not serious, but this could not be further from the truth.

“Undiagnosed pets in the UK run the risk of anaphylactic reactions from unwitting macrocyclic lactone use and any infected dog may go on to develop circulatory complications from infection. Treatment, while often successful, can lead to fatal thromboembolism.”

Dr Wright said it was vital dogs rescued from endemic European countries were tested for heartworm due to the increasing number of cases.