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Diseases and parasites when traveling abroad

Outside Sweden, your dog may be exposed to different types of infections than at home. Here we list the most important diseases and parasites that may be useful to know about while travelling in Europe and how to best protect your dog against them.

Rabies

For all travel in the EU, your dog must be vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a very serious disease and is fatal once symptoms develop. Rabies can spread between species, including to humans. The disease is spread by passing infected saliva to another animal, for example through biting or licking. So far, rabies is not present in Sweden and its prevalence is low in most EU countries. However, this may change rapidly as many countries to the east border so-called high-risk countries with higher rates of infection.

How do I vaccinate my dog against rabies?

Vaccination against rabies is done at your regular vet. Remember to make an appointment for this well in advance of your departure. If your dog has not been previously vaccinated against rabies, it will take three weeks from the date of vaccination before it is valid. After that, the vaccination will last for one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine and the rules in force in the country you are going to. Your animal must also be microchipped and have a passport in order to receive a rabies vaccination, this can often be done at the same time if the animal does not have this previously.

Leishmaniasis

Leishmania is a parasite that causes the disease leishmaniasis. The disease is most common in southern European countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and France, but in recent years it has also been detected in Sweden in dogs imported or resident in the above countries. The parasite is transmitted by sand flies. Sandflies cannot survive in colder climates, which is why the disease is more common in more southerly latitudes. Symptoms of leishmaniasis in dogs include emaciation, anaemia, skin changes, mucosal ulcers and movement disorders. Once infected, it is often difficult to get rid of the parasite completely and relapses are therefore common. The disease can be transmitted to humans.

Prevention of leishmaniasis

If you are going to an area where leishmaniasis is present, make sure you get a mosquito repellent for your dog that can be prescribed by a vet. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so it may be optimal to keep your dog indoors. In the past it has been possible to vaccinate your dog, but as of today (2022-05-25) there is no vaccine available in Sweden.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease and is transmitted to dogs primarily through contact with infected urine. The bacterium thrives best in warmer climates and is therefore rare in Sweden but is otherwise seen worldwide. Usually the symptoms are mild if your dog is infected, but in some cases the disease can cause severe symptoms and be potentially life-threatening. The disease can spread to humans.

Prevention of leptospirosis

Vaccination against the disease can be given in Sweden by a veterinarian before departure. The basic vaccination consists of two injections at 1-month intervals, then the vaccination is topped up annually. The vaccine has a short-term effect, so it is a good idea to vaccinate as close to travel as possible. However, the vaccine does not provide complete protection.

Other parasites

Fleas, lice, ticks and various types of worms are present to varying degrees in different countries in Europe, so you may want to protect your dog against these during your stay. Preparations against these can in some cases be bought over the counter but sometimes they need to be prescribed by a vet.

Things to consider

The onus is on you as the pet owner to ensure that your dog has had the correct vaccinations and is adequately protected against various diseases when travelling. Depending on the country you are travelling to, the prevalence of different diseases may vary. The Swedish Board of Agriculture's website has more information on what applies when travelling to and from Sweden. Otherwise, it is advisable to contact the veterinary authority in the country you are going to in order to ensure what is needed.

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