Recently, I’ve had a run of interesting advice calls about strange infectious diseases in dogs that have been imported from various countries. At a meeting the other day, I had some discussions with colleagues from across Canada who have also seen various infectious diseases in imported dogs.

Imported infectious diseases are a concern for a few reasons:

  • Some could spread to other dogs in Canada.
  • Some could infect insect vectors and eventually establish themselves in Canada.
  • Some could pose a significant risk to people (e.g. rabies).
  • Diagnosis of foreign diseases in pets can be difficult because Canadian vets may have little knowledge about them, and they just don’t come to mind when evaluating a sick animal.

Some of these sick imported pets are animals adopted by people when traveling. Some arrive via organized rescue programs, both from the US and beyond (we’ll leave the discussion about the ethics and economics of importing stray dogs from different regions when we have no shortage of them here for later).

One thing that strikes me as bizarre is how easy it is to import a dog from any country. I do a fair bit of international research and regularly import samples like nasal swabs and fecal samples from different countries, and it’s more effort for me to get a nasal swab into the country than it would be to bring in the whole dog.

For example, if I want to get nasal swabs from dogs from a different country to test them for staphylococci, I need to:

  • Submit an import permit request to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) (and pay).
  • Submit a facility certification form to the CFIA signed by our Biosafety Officer.
  • Submit an import permit request to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
  • Have a facility compliance letter from PHAC that’s based on a long questionnaire demonstrating that I have adequate facilities, protocols and training, along with a facility inspection by our Biosafety Officer.

For me to import a dog, I need:

  • Proof of rabies vaccination

That’s it… unless I want to import a dog less than 8 months of age and not accompany it into the country, in which case I also need a health certificate (which in itself is not much of an indication that there’s limited risk of infectious diseases).

Does that seem logical?