Travelling dogs can spread deadly diseases

travelling relocating pets spread diseases

This article is sponsored content brought to you by Zoetis.

Have you considered how travelling and relocating dogs can spread deadly heartworm and other parasites throughout Australia? It is essential for dogs joining their owners for holidays or road trips to be up to date with their parasite prevention. 


Only 20% of heartworm positive dogs have clinical signs2

Pet owners are often unaware of the increased risk posed to their dogs when travelling to high prevalence areas for heartworm, paralysis ticks and more recently brown dog ticks carrying Ehrlichia canis. Not only are unprotected dogs at risk of picking up these deadly diseases themselves but can also carry these threats of disease back into their own communities upon their return, thereby posing a risk to other dogs. All dogs in Australia are at risk of potentially fatal heartworm disease. Dogs may also be vulnerable to infection via foxes, dingoes, or unprotected dogs who can act as reservoirs for deadly heartworm.

How is heartworm spread?

A dog infected with heartworm and circulating microfilaria (MF) in the blood can act as a local reservoir for mosquitoes to spread infective heartworm larvae to other dogs in the neighbourhood. It takes just one bite from an infected mosquito for another dog to become infected.

Why do dogs move within Australia?

Increasingly pets are viewed as family members, and that includes joining the family on holidays and road trips. There are many other reasons why dogs move within Australia, including some trends which have become more common during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Interstate adoptions
  • Breeders sending puppies interstate
  • People relocating as work has become more flexible
  • Dog competitions and shows


35% of dog owners take their dogs with them on holiday or road trips1

What can vets do to help dogs stay protected and healthy when travelling?

Before travelling or relocation:

  • Encourage the pet owner to book a vet health check for their dog prior to leaving
  • Discuss travel plans and locations to determine the local parasite risks
  • Advise on any protection needed against heartworm and other deadly parasites
  • Evaluate current products used for parasite protection. 
  • Test for heartworm antigen and microfilariae if the dog is over 7 months.
  • If heartworm positive, consider postponing relocation/travel and commence adulticidal treatment following the American Heartworm Society Guidelines
  • If negative, commence heartworm prevention with a macrocyclic lactone (ML), such as ProHeart® SR-12 or Simparica Trio® immediately. Recommend re-testing in 6-12 months
  • Advise on and demonstrate how to do a tick search
  • Advise on the clinical signs of tick paralysis and E. canis if relevant
  • For longer trips, provide the pet owner with a copy of vaccination certificates and any other important documentation they may need for kennels or vets while away

An easy way of ensuring excellent and compliant protection against heartworm is to administer ProHeart® SR-12 before travelling. It’s 3-month reach-back effect will protect the dog against any infection that occurred during the 3 months prior to administration as well as protecting the dog for up to 12 months post-administration. If a dog has already travelled without any heartworm protection, the 3 months reach-back may even cover the entire trip. ProHeart® SR-12 offers you and your clients peace of mind so they can enjoy their holiday without worrying about giving monthly alternatives on time.

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1. Animal Medicines Australia Pty. Ltd. Pets in Australia 2019

2. Nguyen C, Koh WL, Casteriano A, et al. Mosquito-borne heartworm Dirofilaria immitis in dogs from Australia. Parasites Vectors. 2016;9:535.

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