Hotter summers and milder winters have a hidden health impact, with experts now cautioning that warmer year-round weather will make more countries a haven for disease-carrying pests.
Scientists from around the globe, gathered together this week in Seville for the 4th Symposium of the CVBD (canine vector-borne disease) World Forum, issued a plea for dog owners to be more vigilant about protecting their pet and themselves from diseases spread by blood-sucking parasites as global warming causes local temperatures to rise across the seasons. Dogs are particularly vulnerable to attack from a variety of parasites, such as ticks, fleas, sand flies, stable flies and mosquitoes, all of which are capable of transmitting dangerous pathogens. Some of these pathogens may lead to severe diseases in the dog, and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, may in some cases be lethal.
Dr. Xavier Roura, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, explains: “Ongoing climate change, as well as the increased movement of dogs through travel and importation, has enabled the wider spread of infectious agents, with ticks, fleas and mosquitoes now finding niches in new countries. Pet owners need to understand the severity of diseases such as leishmaniosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, hepatozoonosis and Lyme disease, and do what they can to treat and prevent them.”
The experts cite climate change as one of the main contributors to the heightened incidence and global spread of existing diseases, as well as the appearance of new ones from parasites not previously found in parts of the US, Europe, or Asia.
Speaking at the official opening of the symposium, Tomas Molina, Vice-Chairman of the European Association Of Broadcast Meteorologists said: “Changes in temperature, rainfall and humidity affect the biology and ecology of every living thing including, parasites. The warmer weather and milder winters that we have been observing in many parts of the world have meant that dangerous parasites are active for longer periods during the year. For example, sand flies, which transmit leishmaniosis, become more abundant as the climate warms. This, consequently, increases the risk of disease being transmitted from parasite to animal.”
It has been estimated that average global temperatures will have risen by 1.0-3.5 degrees C by 2100,(1). Europe alone has warmed by an average of 0.8 degrees C over the last 100 years(2) and while these changes have not been uniform, the greatest warming has occurred during winter and in the north. Similarly, since 1900, average daily temperatures in the USA have increased by approximately 0.4 degrees C, with most of this increase occurring over the past 30 years,(3) and in Asia average temperatures have increased by 0.3-0.8 degrees C across the continent and are projected to rise by 0.4-4.5 degrees C by 2070.(1)
“Pet owners and vets will be very interested to hear how changing worldwide temperatures may affect their dog’s health. It is important they are aware of how to best safeguard dogs from any increased health threats. Preventative measures that not only kill parasites but also repel them before they bite the pet appear to currently be the most effective choice to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, helping to protect the health of pet and owner,” added Dr. Roura.
The CVBD World Forum (www.cvbd.org) is supported by Bayer HealthCare, Animal Health Division – a specialist in the field of parasite prevention. The CVBD (IV) Symposium was held on March 26-28 (incl) in Seville, Spain.
“It is vital that we continue to investigate and predict future impacts of parasite behaviour on animal and human health. Through ongoing research and the accumulation of our scientific knowledge in animal health, particularly in parasitology, we will be better equipped to identify new disease threats and quickly work to effectively address them, advancing today’s animal healthcare to meet the challenges of an evolving world,” commented Margaret Fairhurst, Head of Global Marketing, Bayer Animal Health.