When we bring dogs from far away into Canada, it is essential that we consider infectious organisms they may also bring into our country as “tag-alongs”. This a veterinarian and molecular-parasitology researcher (who is devoted to tackling zoonotic parasites) shares details on which infections should be top of mind when importing dogs, and describes a cautionary tale of an imported parasitic disease, Leishmania infantum.
Anyone who has been working in veterinary clinics throughout the pandemic will be all-too-aware of the increase in pet-ownership, and specifically, puppy and dog adoption, occurring throughout the past little while. Sometimes it seems that everyone, everywhere is on the hunt for a new furry companion to add to the family, and veterinarians have certainly had their hands full trying to keep up to the increased demand for veterinary medical services. Dog breeders in Canada are taking reservations years into the future for puppies, and prices for puppies are rising. Pet rescue organizations have also been scrambling to fill this “puppy void” – and increasing numbers of dogs are imported into Canada each year from far off locations. Sometimes these dogs are imported from countries where they have a drastically different climate, and potentially very different parasite and infectious disease threats for both dogs and humans.
It is impossible to keep every single infectious disease front and centre in our minds, but veterinarians know that when something seems weird or unusual, we need to call in some help. In 2020, this is exactly what happened in Quebec, Canada, when multiple veterinarians noticed some unusual things in their canine patients. And, as it turns out, these unusual findings were all observed in dogs that were imported to Canada.
Dr. Christopher Fernandez-Prada played an instrumental role in helping veterinarians investigate cases of Leishmania infantum, a parasitic infection. Dr. Fernandez-Prada is currently Director of the parasitology diagnostic laboratory and an assistant professor at the University of Montreal. In addition, he is also an Adjunct professor at McGill University faculty of Medicine, Deputy director of the Animal Infectious Diseases Research Group, and he is a member of the steering committee of the Canadian Network in Neglected Tropical Diseases. Recently, Dr. Fernandez Prada was the first veterinarian to receive the Canadian Institutes of Health Research prize – the Bhagirath Singh Early Career Award in Infection and Immunity.