The risk of serious diseases in dogs is rising in the UK – including diseases that were considered rare only a few years ago.

Canine brucellosis is top of the list. It is a bacterial infection that can seriously harm pregnant bitches and their pups, and cause infertility in both sexes. Most infected dogs do not show any symptoms, although lethargy, lameness and swollen lymph nodes can be signs.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) suggests that the main cause of this rise in cases is the increased number of dogs that have been imported to the UK, most of which will not have been tested for brucellosis and may be infected.

Many vets are now asking owners of newly imported dogs to ensure a test is undertaken three months after their canines enter the UK. The BVA also advises that newly arrived dogs should be kept apart from other dogs until they test negative.

If a dog tests positive for canine brucellosis its options are very limited – even with long-term and expensive antibiotic therapy the odds are very high that the dog will become re-infected because the bacteria can live in parts of the body that antibiotics can’t reach.

A dog may remain infected and be an ongoing source of infection for other dogs, even if outwardly healthy, and so euthanasia is usually recommended.

UK government statistics show that strays from Romania, Bosnia, Belarus, Greece, South Africa and Afghanistan are the most likely to have health issues.

But there are still lots of gaps in the scientific understanding of brucellosis, including its impact on humans (i.e. its zoonotic status) and non-reproductive routes of infection in canines.

The BVA is calling for a change in legislation that would mandate pre-import testing, ensure better recording of imported dogs and prevent the import of puppies and pregnant bitches.

A message to potential foreign rescue dog owners is, simply, ‘buyer beware’.

Endemic, and well-known, canine diseases such as parvovirus and distemper are also becoming more common in the UK, having been almost eradicated over recent years because of the effectiveness of vaccines.

Parvovirus can cause severe illness, and it is often fatal - it damages the lining of the guts, resulting in severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Distemper can also be fatal, and is closely related to measles in humans.

Both parvovirus and distemper are highly infectious, but the BVA believes that the main reason for their increase is that more and more owners are not vaccinating their dogs. This may be linked to increased living costs, alongside the steep rise in vets’ fees, meaning that owners cannot afford appropriate veterinary care; or simply a lack of understanding about the importance of canine vaccination.

All of our rescue dogs are health checked and fully vaccinated before they go to their new homes, and owners are given four weeks’ free pet insurance when they adopt their new pet.

A new arrival in our kennels is a fluffball called Rox.

He’s a two-year-old Pomeranian who’s tougher than he looks – he enjoys walks in the rain, he has a mad 10 minutes every now and then (the zoomies), and he ‘fronts up’ to larger dogs.

We think he’d be happier living either as the only dog in a fairly quiet household, or with other smaller dogs who don’t intimidate him and trigger his ‘small dog syndrome’. His new owners shouldn’t underestimate his hairdressing requirements either!

He won’t be with us for long given he’s a small dog with a great personality, and anyone interested in adopting him will be asked to complete a home finder questionnaire (available on our website or from Ard Jerkyll) before a supervised meeting is planned.