Three Ways Veterinarians Can Slow the Spread of Vector-Borne Diseases

CVBD World Forum 2019

The global spread of companion vector-borne diseases (CVBD) could be coming to a vet practice near you, according to leading experts in parasitology, who attended the 2019 CVBD World Forum. They share their essential advice for veterinarians.

Vector-borne diseases are spreading globally. But this global threat is now being realised at a local level. In veterinary practices across the world, companion animals are displaying signs of diseases that are non-endemic to their countries, requiring vets to treat diseases they may never have been exposed to before.

CVBD Forum Member, Barbara Kohn, from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, at Freie Universität Berlin said: “Unfortunately we don't know a lot about infectious diseases carried by animals in many countries. That's why the big increase in imported dogs can pose real challenges for veterinarians. It can make diagnosis tricky and testing expensive, as it can be hard to distinguish between different diseases.”

Professor Oliva is researching the spread of canine leishmaniosis (CanL) in North Italy into areas considered free from the disease. He says one of the issues is that vets often aren’t familiar with imported diseases.

In the UK and Germany, researchers are seeing increased reports of exotic VBDs due to a rise in travelling pets. Tick and flea seasons are also less defined because populations are thriving in warmer weather, as a result of climate change.


Leishmaniosis is becoming an increasingly important global disease. Its distribution is growing due to climate change and more frequent pet travel.

Whilst Europe is noticing these first stages of increasing tropical VBDs, the situation in Latin America and Brazil – where visceral leishmaniosis (VL) has spread to new canine and human populations in the last two decades – serves as a stark warning.

Once limited to rural environments, VL has now reached urban populations following the destruction of ecosystems to make way for infrastructure, and the migration of infected domestic dogs from rural areas to the cities. Now, in several Brazilian states it has become a serious public health problem.


Changing pet parasite treatment in a changing world

Veterinarians are often the first line of defense in helping to control VBDs. The CVBD World Forum experts believe it is vital vets are more aware of the increasing risk, more informed and vigilant when treating imported or travelling pets and can provide more robust treatment.

1. Recommend effective parasite repellents

It may sound basic, but it’s important to recommend prophylactic measures with repellent activity, that are also suitable for the vectors present in the country they are travelling to and for the duration of time.

Woman running in sand with dog
The health prevention of our four-legged companions is becoming more and more important

Mary Marcondes believes flea and tick control collars are a particularly powerful tool to safeguard pets. She said: “The use of topical insecticides, especially collars, can reduce the risk of L.infantum infection in dogs, representing a tool that could be integrated into control programmes for VL.”

The ability of Seresto™ to prevent an infection with L. infantum was evaluated in 3 clinical field studies, performed in highly endemic areas in southern Italy. In all 3 studies Seresto™ significantly reduced the incidence of leishmaniosis in treated dogs compared to non-treated dogs, and the efficacy in preventing an infection ranged from 88 to 100%.

2. Top up your pet travel knowledge

The increasing trend to import and adopt animals from overseas means your practice and colleagues may be expected to provide accurate and up-to-date information about the right treatment and procedures to ensure the pet’s safe entry into your country.

Barbara Kohn says: “It is important for veterinarians to be well informed. If a pet owner really wants to import a dog or a cat, they should know the latest entry regulations to the country and check with a vet early to find out which examinations are necessary.”


Vet with Jack Russell
Dr. Amore and his Jack Russell


3. Book travel treatment before and after the trip

The world is becoming smaller. More and more pet owners are taking their pets abroad with them, requiring additional vet treatment both before departure and on return. Ian Wright says: “Vets have an active role in helping prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases in their area through early detection via screening imported pets for VBDs and vigilance for relevant clinical signs in travelled pets.

“Vets must also ensure accurate parasite and vector prevention advice is communicated to owners, based on the latest distribution data, and encouragement of tick surveillance on pets by owners.” If veterinarians can incorporate these three aspects to their routine, it could make the world of difference to the health of both pets and people.