Such big eyes. And that first, faithful look. Many tourists fall in love with stray four-legged friends while on holiday. And they would love to take the abandoned animals back home with them. Sylvia Mattias has often adopted dogs from different countries. But she also knows that dangerous infectious diseases lurk there.
Sylvia Mattias from Berlin has already been caught out several times. While on holiday in Sri Lanka she fell in love with a puppy. The 12-week-old dog lived in bushes next to the holidaymaker's bungalow. Sylvia christened her Lanka and took her home to Berlin. A year later, also in Sri Lanka, Rover suddenly lay on the air mattress in the garden and looked at Sylvia – as if he had been waiting for just her. The same thing happened to the her once again, and she took Rover home with her too to give him a better life there than on the street.
Lanka and Rover have both passed away now. But Sylvia Mattias likes to remember the beautiful moments they spent together. Sometimes she gets out her old holiday photos, showing a clumsy and tiny Lanka and Rover snuggling up to her as close as possible. "Those were special dogs," she says. But later she had a lot of grief with Rover.
While Lanka made it to 14, Rover lived for just eight years. He died of the infectious disease leishmaniasis. The pathogen is usually transmitted through bites from sandflies. Risk areas include tropical countries and the Mediterranean Sea. Parasitologists now believe that the disease will spread more strongly as a result of climate change and increasing pet travel. The risk of Companion Vector-borne Diseases (CVBDs) is playing an increasingly important role worldwide. The pathogens of these significant diseases are usually transmitted through the bites of parasites. In addition to phlebotominae (sandflies), ticks, fleas and mosquitoes also play important roles as carriers. Examples of other vector-borne diseases include ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, borreliosis and babesiosis in dogs.
For a long time, Sylvia had not realized that Rover had been infected with leishmaniasis. There is a wide range of possible clinical signs of leishmaniasis in dogs, including lymph node swelling, weight loss, fatigue, fever, skin changes, eye inflammation, nervous system symptoms and circulatory problems. It can be mild to life-threatening. Some animals, like Rover, do not show any symptoms to begin with.
He had the disease on his kidneys. "It was a gradual process," says Sylvia. "At first we didn't notice, but at some point he started having seizures. At the veterinary clinic, leishmaniasis was diagnosed. Rover got thinner and thinner because he didn't eat. He struggled on."
But Leishmaniasis cannot be cured. Medication can only partially alleviate symptoms. However, in the end even the countless medicines could not help Rover any more. "It was terrible," says Sylvia. So, with a heavy heart, she decided to have Rover put down. The vet relieved him of his suffering.
What Sylvia experienced with Rover would never stop her from giving other dogs from abroad a home. Rover and Lanka were followed by other four-legged friends. Sylvia has now learnt her lesson: "Today I would have dogs tested immediately in Germany for diseases such as leishmaniasis regardless of what the vets in the country of origin say about the health of the animal, in order to be able to counteract them with medication as early as possible if necessary."
Following the experiences with vector-borne diseases, the prevention of parasites is now more important than ever. Ticks and fleas can also carry pathogens of dangerous diseases and transmit them to dogs in Germany through their bite.
Today, animals can be protected against leishmaniasis in a very effective and straightforward manner.
"But you don't have to stop traveling with your four-legged friend," says Bayer animal health expert Dr. Markus Edingloh. "Today, animals can be protected against leishmaniasis in a very effective and straightforward manner, for example with Seresto™, a collar that gradually releases the active ingredients Imidacloprid and Flumethrin."
Subsequently, they spread over the entire skin surface of the animal within 48 hours and provide continuous protection for up to 8 months against ticks, fleas and lice. In addition, Seresto reduces the risk of infection from the Leishmania infantum pathogen transmitted by phlebotominae (sandflies) over a period of up to 8 months.
Many dog owners are familiar with the Seresto™ collar as protection against ticks, lice and fleas. In many European countries, it has also been approved to reduce the risk of infection with Leishmania infantum in dogs by phlebotominae (sandflies). Since clinical field studies in endemic areas have shown that the risk of being infected with leishmaniasis by phlebotominae (sandflies) is much lower in dogs wearing the collar than in untreated dogs: Here, the effectiveness of reducing the risk of infection with leishmaniasis was between 88.3 and 100 percent.
How the Seresto™ collar protects
The special structure of this modern collar, the so-called polymer matrix, stores the active ingredients Imidacloprid (against fleas and lice) and Flumethrin (against ticks).
As soon as Seresto™ is applied, the active ingredients are released into the natural fat film of the dog's skin and hair in small and well-tolerated quantities.
Putting on the collar is safe. The user is not exposed to most of the active substances when touching the surface of the collar. Only so much of the active ingredients are dispensed to the dog as are needed for effective protection against ticks and fleas.
And dog lover Sylvia Mattias? The last time she fell in love with a dog was just eight months ago. Kandy, also from Sri Lanka, found a new, loving home in Berlin.