A parasitic worm that can blind if left untreated has been described as a “significant threat” to dogs in the UK after it was found in three pets that had recently returned from Europe.
The first known case discovered in the UK was in 2016, after the dog had been brought over from Romania, and the other two had recently travelled to Italy and France, all countries where the parasite is commonplace.
All three had fulfilled the Government’s pet travel scheme, which includes vaccinations but does not require quarantining.
Scientists have warned that the “relatively free and regular movement of dogs into and out of the UK from mainland Europe and importation from rescue charities” means that pathogens like this one “pose a significant threat to the UK canine population”.
All three dogs recovered, but the paper’s authors warn that Thelazia callipaeda can infect humans, cats and foxes, the last of which could act as reservoir species if the worm established itself over here.
Also known as “oriental eye worm”, the parasite is spread by flies and is endemic to many European countries. In parts of southern Italy an estimated 40% of dogs have it.
Symptoms in dogs include conjunctivitis and ulceration of the cornea, which can lead to blindness.
The full paper was published in the British Medical Journal’s Veterinary Record journal and can be read here.