Over the last few years, we have seen an increasing number of dogs that were born or have lived overseas.

The majority of these are through rescue agencies, often based in southern or eastern Europe.

Rescuing a dog is a noble act but it isn’t always simple, as often these animals have not had the best start in life and there is a risk of introducing exotic diseases to Scotland.

Currently rules on importation of domestic animals state only that the animals are vaccinated against rabies and are wormed against tapeworm prior to entering the UK.

Unfortunately, there are several diseases which are highly prevalent in mainland Europe which we are now beginning to see in the UK.

Below is a brief, but by no means exhaustive, guide to some of the imported diseases which have been noted in the UK.

Imported dog diseases we watch out for


Caused by infection of brucella canis, typically causing infection and inflammation of the reproductive tracts and infertility in either sex.

An infected dog can pass infection to humans, which can lead to serious illness and infertility.

There is no effective treatment and due to the risk to human health euthanasia is sadly necessary.


This is a parasitic disease caused by leishmania and is transmitted by being bitten by the phlebotomine sandfly, which doesn’t live in the UK.

It can cause signs throughout the body, but most commonly the skin, guts, lymph nodes and kidneys. Leishmaniasis unfortunately cannot be cured, but it can be managed if diagnosed early.

As the disease progresses renal involvement can lead to permanent, and potentially fatal, kidney failure. Relapses of the infection are common.

Leishmania positive dogs need life-long repeated monitoring to ensure the disease is kept under surveillance and in remission. Unfortunately however, long term prognosis is guarded in many individuals.


A blood borne parasitic disease spread via infected ticks, or directly from an infected dog, usually through fighting.

Babesia usually causes destruction of red blood cells and platelets, which are used in clotting, and can be fatal if left untreated.

Treatment is prolonged and involves multiple therapies, and only carries a reasonable chance of clearing the parasite.

Repeat testing is required to ensure a cure has been achieved.


Caused by ehrlichia following a bite from an infected tick.

Many body systems can be affected, but mainly it causes bleeding disorders, neurological and renal issues by infecting the brain and kidneys.

The disease can present in acute or chronic forms often several months after being infected.

Treatment is prolonged and usually successful, however follow up testing is required to ensure this has been achieved.

Unfortunately, some cases, especially chronic forms, do not respond to treatment.


Protozoal parasitic infection from infected tick bites, causing a wide range of clinical signs throughout multiple body systems.

Treatment is possible but often unsuccessful and sadly often results in euthanasia on humane grounds.


Caused by infection of dirofilaria immitis, a slow growing parasitic worm which mainly affects the cardiovascular system.

Causes a range of symptoms which vary depending on the degree of worm burden.

Early treatment before secondary damage to the heart and lungs has occurred usually carries an excellent prognosis.

However, sadly, as the disease progresses the prognosis worsens significantly. Due to the slow growing nature of the parasite repeated testing may be required.

Our policy on imported dogs

To protect Thrums staff, the general public and the general dog population the following rules apply to any imported dogs who join our practice.

All imported dogs are subject to mandatory brucellosis testing. This involves two blood tests, three months apart.

If the first blood result is negative then we agree to examine and treat your dog in the interim, however we will only perform surgery once the second blood sample is negative.

If either of the blood samples returns a positive result, then due to the significant risk to human health, we advise euthanasia.

If you have other dogs in close contact with the positive dog then they too will be subject to the above testing regime.

If you are unwilling to adhere to this policy then we reserve the right to withdraw veterinary services. If the dog has been in the UK for more than three months, then only one brucella blood sample is required.

We strongly recommend that testing is also carried out for the other listed diseases.

Some tailoring of the testing regime is possible depending on the country of origin.

Please speak to our team to organise a suitable testing regime.