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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Health


Get pets ready for invasion of blood-sucking insects

As if you and your dog don't already have enough trouble fending off fleas, ticks and other insects; now scientists predict that problems with blood-sucking pests that can infect your pet with many diseases will get a lot worse in the upcoming years.

The population of these pests is expected to surge and pet parents in many locations - even colder climates - will have to deal with them for more months of the year and in some cases year-round.



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The warming of the world's climate could have dire consequences for dogs, making them more vulnerable to lethal pathogens spread by insects, scientists warn.


Hotter summers and milder winters are causing the appearance of new parasite-borne illnesses and spreading existing diseases usually only found in hot climates to colder parts of the United States, Europe and Asia, experts say.

"The warmer weather and milder winters that we have been observing in many parts of the world have meant that dangerous parasites are active for longer periods during the year," Tomas Molina, vice chairman of the European Association of Broadcast Meteorologists, said during the recent the 4th Symposium of the CVBD (canine vector-borne disease) World Forum in Seville, Spain.

"For example, sand flies, which transmit leishmaniosis, become more abundant as the climate warms. This, consequently, increases the risk of disease being transmitted from parasite to animal," Dr. Molina said.

Scientists issued a plea for dog owners to be more vigilant about protecting their pets and themselves from diseases spread by blood-sucking parasites, according to a media release from the Bayer HealthCare Animal Health Division.

Dogs are particularly vulnerable to attack from parasites - such as ticks, fleas, sand flies, stable flies and mosquitoes - which are capable of transmitting dangerous pathogens. Some pathogens may lead to severe diseases in the dog, and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, may in some cases be lethal, the scientists said.

"Ongoing climate change, as well as the increased movement of dogs through travel and importation, has enabled the wider spread of infectious agents, with ticks, fleas and mosquitoes now finding niches in new countries," Dr. Xavier Roura of the veterinary teaching hospital at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, said at the symposium. "Pet owners need to understand the severity of diseases such as leishmaniosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, hepatozoonosis and Lyme disease, and do what they can to treat and prevent them."

Dr. Roura is urging pet parents to take measures to protect their companions from parasites.

"It is important they are aware of how to best safeguard dogs from any increased health threats," he said. "Preventative measures that not only kill parasites but also repel them before they bite the pet appear to currently be the most effective choice to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, helping to protect the health of pet and owner."

Margaret Fairhurst, an official with Bayer Animal Health, cites the importance of studying the potential future impact of parasite behavior on animal and human health.

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"Through ongoing research and the accumulation of our scientific knowledge in animal health, particularly in parasitology, we will be better equipped to identify new disease threats and quickly work to effectively address them," she said.

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