Risk of disease
UK vets are seeing an increase in the number of diseases in dogs rescued from abroad that are not common in this country. Some of these diseases can have potential health effects on the dog as well as the risk of passing it on to other dogs and potentially humans. Dogs can often be infected before displaying symptoms, this is when there’s a greater risk of the infection spreading to others through biting insects and ticks. Many responsible rehoming charities will screen dogs from abroad for diseases before their arrival into the UK.
Some of these dogs can arrive with signs of disease, other health conditions and injuries, including fractured bones that haven’t healed well. Veterinary care can vary considerably between countries as well as different techniques, for example, chemical castrations which might not provide permanent results.
Some diseases of imported dogs include:
Rabies: All dogs entering the UK must be vaccinated against rabies at least 3 weeks before entry and they must hold a valid passport. The British Veterinary Association prefer a 12 week wait post vaccination to reduce the risk to puppies being transported entering UK.
Leishmania: A severe disease caused by the Leishmania parasite transmitted to dogs, other mammals and sometimes humans through bites of the sandfly which is not found in the UK. Dogs who come from Southern and Eastern European countries are at greater risk of infection, which causes skin lesions and severe illness including depression, weight loss and severe kidney failure.
Brucellosis: A bacterial infection that causes diseases of the reproductive system and painful vertebral disc disease in dogs. It is widespread in many parts of mainland Europe including Romania. It is especially common in large stray dog populations and isolated cases have now been reported in the UK.
Heartworm (Dirofilaria): A parasite spread by mosquitoes across the Southern Mediterranean. It can cause worms to grow and live inside the heart. It can take months for a dog to show signs after being infected.
Another thing to consider before rehoming a dog from abroad is the variety of ticks that might be common in other countries, but not the UK. Some ticks are able to transmit infectious diseases to dogs, including Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, carried by the brown dog tick.
Babesiosis causes fatigue, pale gums and dark urine which can also infect humans. Signs of Ehrlichiosis include a mild fever, weight loss and bleeding.
Meeting the dog you’re interested in
Many charities will carefully rescue dogs from abroad and place them in UK foster homes before they’re rehomed. This gives the opportunity for dogs to adapt in the UK as a domesticated pet. It also gives the rescue charity time to assess the dog’s needs, likes, and dislikes. If you’re considering rehoming a dog from abroad from a charity, only consider those who will take the dog back if the match doesn’t work out.
Don’t underestimate the importance of meeting a dog before you agree to rehome them, it’s such a big commitment. A picture, description, or video isn’t enough for you to decide whether the dog’s personality will fit in with your family. It might also miss out some of the important points you need to know before rehoming. For example, in a meet, you will get a better understanding of how well trained the dog is, how they handle being on and off-lead, their reaction to unfamiliar people and interaction with other dogs.
Testing the waters
Some charities will allow you to look after the dog in your home as a trial period before the rehoming becomes official, this works as a type of fostering. This arrangement will allow you to get to know the dog while following the charity’s advice to help them settle in. In a situation where you find out the dog isn’t quite right for your family, the charity can try to help you work things out, or they can take the dog back if there’s something wrong. If the charity doesn’t specifically mention this service, it’s worth enquiring about to see if they can come to an arrangement with you. This will show they’re invested to help you.