Imported Dog Advice

Rescuing a dog from abroad – Advice for pet owners

Taking on a dog from abroad via a rescue centre can be a very rewarding experience, but there are some important considerations first. Many dogs will have been living as strays, or spent their whole life in kennels, and as a result are likely to have been poorly socialised. They may be frightened around people and this can lead to behavioural problems. Pets should only be purchased though a reputable charity or rescue centre, sadly there are many dogs who have been imported illegally with false documents.

There is a risk of the dog carrying diseases and parasites which are not present in the UK. These diseases can be very serious for your dog, and some can be passed onto humans too. Imported dogs maybe infected without showing any signs of illness, they often have unknown heritage and may have been moved between countries. Therefore all imported dogs should be tested for all of these exotic diseases, both before and after entering the UK. Details of the testing we recommend is explained below. These tests are expensive and, if found to be positive, may require a lifetime of further testing and treatment with no guarantee of recovery.

At Midland Veterinary Surgery we recommend blood tests for:

  • Leishmania, Brucellosis canis, heartworm and Erlichia testing at time of importation. If the initial Brucella test is positive a more accurate follow up test will be needed to confirm.
  • Treat for ticks on entry with a prescription product
  • Treat for tapeworm within 1 month of importation
  • At 3 months repeat Brucella canis test
  • At 6 months repeat test for Leishmania and heartworm, regardless of first test results

Further information about these diseases are given below, and more details can be found at


This disease is transmitted by sandflies. Dogs are infected for life. Drugs can be used to control the infection, but flareups are still common and the disease frequently causes kidney failure, shortening the life expectancy of the dog.

Dogs should be tested at time of importation to the UK. There is a long incubation period for Leishmania, so even if the first test is negative dogs need to be tested again 6 months later.

Brucellosis canis

This is a bacterial infection that was eliminated from the UK, but is very common in eastern European countries. It is spread by bodily fluids such as blood, urine and genital fluids, and indirectly by saliva. Infected dogs may not show any obvious clinical signs.  It can be transmitted to humans and in some cases can cause fatal disease in man. In 2022 there was the first UK confirmed case of transmission from an imported dog to it’s owner.

Dogs should be tested at the time of importation, and again 3 months later as there is a long incubation period.  

Brucella is virtually impossible to clear from a pet once infected, so in most cases euthanasia is recommended to protect human health and to prevent transmission to other dogs.


This is a parasite transmitted by mosquitos. It can be fatal to dogs, as large numbers of worms can develop in the heart and pulmonary artery. Dogs should be tested at time of importation and again 6 months later. If the dog is found to be positive treatment options will be discussed with you. There are treatments available to kill the worms, but this carries risk to the dog including death from blood clots and anaphylactic shock. During treatment cage rest is often advised and this can be for several months to minimise the risk of these side effects.


This is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Infected dogs may show no clinical signs until months or years later when it becomes a chronic and fatal disease. Treatment with antibiotics is usually successful if it is diagnosed early. Pets should be inspected for ticks when imported, and a prescription tick treatment should be given.

Echinococcus multilocularis

This is a condition caused by a tapeworm species, which is present in Europe but not in the UK. Dogs catch this by eating infected meat, and then pass out the parasite in their faeces, where it can be contracted by humans. In dogs this does not typically cause serious illness but in humans it can be life threatening. Cancerous-like cysts develop in organs such as the liver, lung, muscles and brain, causing very serious illness.

It is a requirement for all traveling and imported pet dogs to be treated for tapeworm 1-5 days before entering the UK. Because of the life cycle of this parasite it is recommend to repeat the tapeworm treatment after a month.

Practice information

Midland Veterinary Surgery

  • Mon
    8:00am - 7:00pm
  • Tue
    8:00am - 7:00pm
  • Wed
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  • Thu
    8:00am - 7:00pm
  • Fri
    8:00am - 7:00pm
  • Sat
    8:00am - 2:00pm
  • Sun

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655 High Road Leyton London E10 6RA
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