|June 02, 2009|
Climate change could kill your pet, warns the RSPCA
|Climate change could kill pets, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), as warmer temperatures cause an increase in exotic diseases among cats and dogs. |
In the first conference to be called on pets and climate change, scientists warned that the small heartworm, that kills dogs, cats and foxes, is already on the rise in the UK with more cases appearing in the north of the country and Scotland because of warmer wetter summers.
Furthermore because of the increased numbers of pets coming into the country from abroad without quarantine, there is a greater threat of exotic diseases that can become established in warmer temperatures and may even pose a threat to humans.
The RSPCA are so worried about the affect of climate change on cats and dogs, the charity is calling on pet-owners to take preventive measures against exotic diseases especially when travelling abroad.
In the second RSPCA annual conference in London a number of experts came together to discuss the issue.
Susan Shaw, from the University of Bristol, said small heartworm, a parasitic disease spread by insects that can kill dogs, cats and foxes, is already on the increase. She blamed the warmer wetter summers that means there are more slugs and snails around which spreads the disease if the dogs eat them.
"Climate change is a concern with these diseases because of its transmission on intermediate hosts like slugs and snails. [Heartworm] has already spread in the UK and we are concerned it will spread further," she said.
Professor Sandy Trees, a specialist in Veterinary Parasitology at the University of Liverpool, said exotic diseases could become established in the UK as temperatures increase. He said the number of animals coming into the country has risen from around 5,000 every year to around 100,000 every year since 2000, when the Pet Travel Scheme lifted the need for pets from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and other countries to be quarantined.
He said large heartworm, a malaria-like parasite known as babesiosis and another insect-borne disease leishmaniosis -- all of which can prove fatal to cats and dogs -- have already been spotted in the UK.
Prof Trees also said species of tapeworm, that can prove fatal to humans, could be brought into the country if restrictions are lifted further and temperatures are warm enough.
"Just as human travel may expose us to new disease threats, so increasingly free pet animal movement threatens pet health. Compounded in the longer term by climate change, these two phenomena of globalisation and global warming may see new and serious dog diseases becoming established in the UK," he said.
The RSPCA is calling for more research into heartworm and exotic diseases. The charity called on pet owners to prevent spread by using collars to stop ticks and fleas and consulting vets as soon as infections are spotted.