The very first cases of eye worm in dogs in the UK were formally diagnosed back in 2016, and they were all found in dogs that had either come from mainland Europe originally or that had travelled from the UK to the continent and back; like dogs taken on holiday with their owners, and dogs rescued from street dog populations abroad and rehomed in the UK.
The risk of any dog in the UK having eye worms is low, although it is important to be vigilant if they have been abroad or have been around a dog that has; but another factor to bear in mind too is that canine eye worms can also be caught by people, which is something nobody would want to happen.
This article will attempt to raise awareness of dog eye worms and share some basic information about canine eye worm and how this relates to dogs in the UK, and how worried (or not) we should be about eye worms here in the UK or if you got your dog from abroad or intend to take them abroad.
Read on to learn more.
The countries in Europe that see the greatest number of cases of eye worms in dogs and where the disease seems to be becoming more widespread include France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal, as well as Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia.
At one point in the Basilicata region in Italy, eye worm in dogs had actually reached an acutely critical level and over 40% of all tested dogs in the region had or had previously had eye worm, which is of particular concern.
However, aside from this Italian cluster, eye worm in dogs isn’t thought to be hugely common, although it is easily spread and so cause for concern if you do take your dog abroad.
Certain types of areas are also more likely to attract eye worm parasites and the fruit flies that spread them too, being wooded areas (particularly oak woodland) when the weather is warm and has been for some time, which means that cases tend to peak in affected areas in late summer and the early part of autumn.
If you plan to take your dog to the continent and want to protect them against eye worms, you will naturally wonder if this is something that can be prevented with vaccination, as is the case with rabies, and the latter of which is a mandatory vaccination for pets being brought back into the UK.
However, there is no vaccination for eye worms in dogs, as is the case for other forms of parasites; but there are products that can treat and eradicate worms in dogs and also prevent or reduce the chances of transmission in the first place.
If you do plan to take your dog abroad (and/or import a dog or re-enter the UK with your dog) always ensure that their flea and worming treatment protocols are up to date, and administered properly with the relevant veterinary product; as per the requirements of pet travel between the UK and Europe anyway.
This is not fool proof or a preventative however, as the small number of dogs that have been formally diagnosed with eye worm in the UK that they’d contracted abroad were all compliant with the pet travel scheme requirements as they were at the time (pre-Brexit) and this served as no protection.
For this reason it is wise to be vigilant to the signs of eye worm in dogs if you take your dog abroad or have brought them into the UK from the continent, and speak to a vet in whichever country you are in about an antiparasitic treatment that is also effective against eye worms, as the ones that are perfectly fine for intestinal worms and use for the pet travel scheme are not always among them.
Unfortunately yes, eye worm is not exclusive to dogs and can also infect both cats and people and some other mammals too, which is another reason to be really vigilant about eye worm while understanding that it is not an acute threat in most areas of Europe.
There have been confirmed cases of eye worm diagnosis in humans in Italy, France and Spain, potentially from contact with and proximity to dogs infected with eye worm.
Even if your dog did have eye worm, the chances of your catching it too are low; and it may not be reassuring to learn that other forms of dog worms and parasites including roundworm and tapeworm can be caught by people from dogs too, although this is not hugely common either!