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Pet's Health and Diseases

Your pet’s health is important to you, and when traveling to a foreign country your pet might be exposed to new diseases and potentially dangerous wildlife. Below is a brief guide to diseases and wildlife that may pose a threat to your pet when visiting or living in Spain. This information is a guide only. If your pet shows any signs of illness, do not hesitate to contact us immediately.
Diseases  
Wildlife  
Diseases
1. Canine Leishmaniasis
Canine leishmaniasis is a severe disease, that affects dogs, and is often fatal. It is caused by a blood parasite, Leishmania infantum, which is transmitted through the bite of the sand fly.
The sand fly is infected by the leishmania parasite when it bites and feeds on an infected dog. After 1-2 weeks the parasite is at a stage of its life cycle to be passed onto a new host. When the infected sand fly then bites an uninfected dog, the parasite invades the dog’s cells and begins to spread.
Leishmaniasis is a slowly progressive disease, and it may take several years before there are any signs of the illness. The signs and symptoms are not always obvious. Affected dogs may become listless and begin to lose weight; other signs include lengthening of claws, dandruff in the fur, hair loss and inflammation of the eyes.
Leishmaniasis is a fatal disease if not treated. The treatment can only manage the disease, as currently there is no treatment available that completely eradicates the parasite. Therefore, the dog will remain infected throughout its life, but if treated in time; its life expectancy would be considerably lengthened.
The best prevention of this disease is to help protect your dog from sand flies. The sand fly season is from May to September, and they are generally active after dusk. Therefore it is advisable to keep your dog inside during the night. Discuss with us about preventative collars and insecticides available, also the new vaccine which help protect your dog from sand flies.
2. Heartworm
Heartworm disease affects both dogs and cats. It is more commonly seen in dogs, but is a greater danger in cats. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms, Dirofilaria immitis, living in the heart and arteries of the lungs of the infected animal.
The worms are transmitted through the bite of the mosquito and enter the animal at the larval stage.
In dogs the larvae take approximately 6-7 months to mature into the adult worm, which live in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, causing injury to these organs and where they begin to produce offspring. The adult worms can live 5-7 years and can grow up to 14 inches long.
In cats the larvae take 7-8 months to mature, however, in most cases the worms do not produce offspring. In cats, damage is mostly seen in the lungs, rather than the heart. The adult worms live 2-3 years in the cat.
Canine heartworm disease symptoms include difficulty in breathing, coughing, listlessness and weight loss. In cats the symptoms are not so consistent; however clues may include coughing, rapid breathing, weight loss and vomiting.
Treatment medication for canine heartworm disease is available.
Preventative medication is available for both dogs and cats; however, you can also help protect your pet by keeping them indoors after dusk to avoid mosquitoes. Consult us to discuss the best course of action.
3. Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease which can infect all mammals including humans, and is usually fatal.
It is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.
The virus travels to the spinal cord or the brain and the average time for signs of the disease to appear is about 4 weeks. Initial signs of the disease are fever, slight changes in behaviour and temperament, slower eye reflexes with dilated pupils. As the disease progresses further signs are aggression, lack of co-ordination, increase in saliva, seizures and fits and disorientation. During the final stages of the disease, the animal will show paralysis, respiratory failure, will fall into a comma and then death.
For travel to Spain, your pet must be vaccinated against rabies, not less than 21 days before traveling. For travel to the UK, you must comply with the pet travel scheme, which is detailed in Pet Travel Certificates.
4. Canine Babesiosis
Canine Babesiosis or biliary fever is a serious disease caused by a parasite, Babesia canis, which is transmitted through the bite of a tick.
The parasite lives in the tick's saliva glands, and when the tick feeds on the dog, the parasite passes into the blood. The parasite infects and proliferates in red blood cells, eventually destroying them. Clinical signs are usually seen about 1 week after infection and include the presence of ticks, fever, anaemia, lethargy, jaundice and blood in the urine.
Babesiosis can be treated if caught in time, so contact us immediately if your dog shows any signs of illness. If left untreated, the disease will lead to death.
You can protect you dog by checking its coat each day for ticks, especially during the tick season (April-September). Ticks can be removed using a specific spray, or by coating the body part with butter/oil or petroleum jelly (causes suffocation and the tick drops off). Try to avoid pulling the tick off the animal as the head may get left behind and cause infection. Discuss with us about preventative collars and spot-on treatments which are available to protect your dog.
5. Ehrlichiosis
Ehrlichiosis is another serious disease caused by another parasite (Ehrlichia spp.) transmitted through tick bites. It leads to immune complex related diseases. The organism infects monocytes, cells which are found in the lymph nodes, liver, blood and bone marrow
The disease can progress in three stages. In the initial stage of the disease (acute stage) signs are fever, vomiting, loss of weight, nose bleeds, trouble with breathing and swollen glands. This stage may last 2-4 weeks.
In the next stage (sub clinical stage), little or no signs of the disease are seen. During this stage, the organism may be eliminated from the body or it may progress to the next stage (chronic).
During the chronic stage, signs of the illness include, anaemia, bleeding problems, weight loss, inflammation of the eyes, neurological problems, swollen limbs and lameness.
Ehrlichiosis can be treated if caught in time, so contact us immediately if your dog shows any signs of illness. If left untreated, the disease will lead to death.
You can protect you dog by checking its coat each day for ticks, especially during the tick season (April-September). Ticks can be removed using a specific spray, or by coating the body part with butter/oil or petroleum jelly (causes suffocation and the tick drops off). Try to avoid pulling the tick off the animal as the head may get left behind and cause infection. Discuss with us about preventative collars and spot-on treatments which are available to protect your dog.
Wildlife
The following information is a guide only. If your pet shows any signs of illness and you suspect a bite or sting, do not hesitate to contact us immediately.
1. Processional Pine Caterpillars
These caterpillars are poisonous to animals and humans. They feed off pine trees and live in cocoon type nests hanging from the branches. They are mostly seen during the months of November to April. They can be seen traveling nose to tail in a line from tree to tree.
The hairs of the caterpillars are poisonous, so avoid all contact with them. Even after the caterpillar is dead, the hairs remain toxic. They cause irritation, rashes and pain and at worst, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock). You must take care when walking your dog in areas where the caterpillars may be, as there is a risk of the hairs being present on the ground and your dog being affected when sniffing the ground where the caterpillars have marched. Ingestion of the caterpillars may cause death.
2. Spiders
There are thousands of species of spiders in Spain. However, there a few venomous ones to be aware of European or Mediterranean Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus)
Black in colour with 13 red spots on its abdomen.
The bite of this spider is medically significant, therefore if you or your pet is bitten, do not hesitate to seek medical/veterinarian advice immediately.
Wolf Spider (Lycosa tarentula)
Brown/grey in colour and approximately 27mm in length.
The venom of this spider is not a danger to humans (unless allergic to the venom), however different mammals have varying reactions.
If you or your pet is bitten, do not hesitate to seek medical/veterinarian advice immediately.
3. Snakes
There are 13 types of snakes in Spain, but only 5 have venom
European Adder (Vipera berus)
Is fairly small (2ft long) and not particularly aggressive. The colour varies from grey to olive, yellow or brown, with a V or X mark on the head and a dark zigzag line running down the back.
Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoani)
Mainly found in the north of Spain. Grows to an average length of 75cm long. The colour varies, but there are 4 main pattern types.
  1. Beige or light grey background with brown ziz-zag pattern
  2. Rough twin striped pattern
  3. Brown with no pattern
  4. Fragmented ziz-zag pattern.
Lataste's Viper (Vipera latastei) or Snub Nose Viper
Grows to an average length of 50-60cm but can grow up to 75cm. Found across Spain, but is rare. The colour varies from grey to brown to red/brown with a wavy zigzag like pattern. The head is defined from the body and has the characteristic raised snout.
Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)
Grows to an average length of 60-65cm. Is recognized by its broad triangular head with a slightly upturned snout. Skin colour varies from grey to brown (also sometimes orange) with a broken zigzag pattern of thick bands down the back. The belly is usually black.
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Grows to an average of 100cm (but can be up to 225cm). It has a long thin head with large eyes. The colour and pattern of the skin varies with age with young snakes being grey or greyish brown with cross band markings down the back. As the snake ages, it loses the pattern resulting in a uniformly coloured skin.
False smooth snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus/brevis)
Average length about 45cms. Has a small head well defined from the body. Colours vary from brown, grey to green.
If you or your pet is bitten by a snake, seek medical/veterinarian advice immediately.
4. Scorpions
Scorpions are generally found in dry rural areas living under stones, logs and tree trunks.
Buthus occitanus - Is yellow in colour and grows to approximately 8-9cms.
Euscorpius flavicaudis - Is dark, almost black in colour with lighter coloured legs. The average length is 3.5-4.5 cm.
The sting of these scorpions is painful but is not deadly to humans (unless allergic to the sting), but if you or your pet is stung, seek medical/veterinarian advice immediately.
5. Ticks. Mosquitoes and Sand flies
Ticks, Mosquitoes and Sand flies are a danger to your pet as they can spread diseases. To help prevent your pet being bitten, speak to us about preventative collars and medications and keep your pet indoors after dusk. To find out more click here. Ticks or Mosquitoes.
The information detailed here is meant as a guide only. If your pet shows any signs of illness, contact us immediately. For further information regarding diseases and dangerous wildlife, please contact us.
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Teckel Veterinary Clinic, Calle Cártama 11, La Cala de Mijas, Málaga, Tel.:952494102
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