Dogs and their undisputed love for their owners show us exactly why we need to protect the exuberant, fuzzy animals. This is particularly true in light of a new report that says a parasitic eyeworm, called Thelazia callipaeda, is currently a threat to the UK canine population. The eyeworm is spread by a particular fruit fly in Europe that, if left untreated, makes dogs lose their sight.
There were three serious dog-related cases reported in the UK last year, but all were able to be cured after treatment. However, British pet owners returning from European countries where the parasite is endemic are now being warned about the parasite, especially owners with dogs and cats. They’ve been told to watch out for conjunctivitis (or pink eye) and anything else that looks harmful or threatening. The infected fly sits on the animal’s eye and releases infective larvae. If the infectious disease goes uncured, it can make the animal go blind.
In 2015, a report shared that Thelazia callipaeda is an emerging zoonotic infection and that there needs to be an “increased awareness among owners, veterinarians and ophthalmologists, even outside the known endemic areas.” This includes areas such as Italy, France, Portugal, Switzerland, and Romania.
Phortica variegata is another fruit fly that can be found in Britain and, according to veterinary expert John Graham-Brown, there’s also a chance that they can pass the infection on to not only animals but humans too.
In 2014, The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was updated to include tighter security for animals going back to the UK. However, Graham Brown shared in BMJ that the PETS safety measures still weren’t good enough, saying: "So far, there has been only one strain of the infection round in Europe. But it's been spreading quite rapidly recently. We are not sure why.
"We do have this type of fly in the UK as well, so there is the potential for an infected dog to come back and give it to the fly here, and then it could spread."