Dog and Cat Travel And Risk Information (DACTARI)

DACTARI is a national voluntary reporting scheme which was set up to carry out surveillance of exotic diseases in dogs and cats in Great Britain. It was formally launched by Defra on 1 March 2003 and was designed with the involvement of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA).  Guidance was also received from the Department of Health.

The scheme intends to report any exotic diseases of dogs and cats, but focuses on four main ones:


Leishmaniasis is caused by a protozoan (Leishmania sp.), which is spread between animals by sandflies. The disease is present in Europe, the Middle East and many tropical countries. Each year several cases are diagnosed in dogs reported under the DACTARI reporting scheme that have spent time in a country outside GB which indicates that infection has been picked up abroad. The organism can cause disease in people. Affected animals may lose weight, develop skin lesions and swollen lymph nodes, become lame and have recurring fevers.


Babesiosis (or Redwater) is a disease of cattle and other mammals, caused by the protozoan parasites Babesia bovis, B. bigemina, B.divergens and others. The protozoan develops inside the red blood cells of affected animals. Different species of the organism affect different animals. The organism is transmitted between animals by ticks but can also be spread by contaminated instruments or needles. Babesiosis occurs worldwide and bovine redwater is constantly present in some areas of the UK. In Europe, particularly in Southern France, the infection occurs in dogs and there is a possibility that dogs from the UK, on holiday with their owners in Europe, may return home with the infection. A small number of cases have been diagnosed in dogs  reported under the DACTARI reporting scheme since 2003 where the animal has some spent time outside the UK.  Signs of disease may include a fever, loss of appetite, the passage of red / brown urine , anaemia and weakness. Recovered animals are immune to reinfection by the same species of organism. However the parasite may persist in the blood for some years causing the disease to reappear in the same animal.


Ehrlichiosis is caused by a bacterium called rickettsia that can infect the blood cells of several species including dogs, horses and people. It is transmitted by ticks. The disease occurs in North Africa and in several European countries. A small number of cases have been diagnosed in dogs  reported under the DACTARI reporting scheme each year since 2003.  Clinical signs vary but include fever, loss of appetite , anaemia, stiffness and reluctance to move. Prolonged bleeding may be seen.

Dirofilariasis (Heartworm Disease)

Infection by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis may result in heartworm disease. The adult worms live in the heart and blood vessels. Dogs are most commonly affected, but the worms can also infect cats and ferrets. The intermediate stage of the worm, called the larva, is transmitted between animals by mosquitoes in hot countries including Spain and France. A small number of cases are diagnosed in the GB each year in animals that have been infected abroad. At present the temperatures in the UK do not favour the development of the larvae in the mosquitoes. However any increases in the average summer temperature in the future could change this situation. Clinical signs vary but may include coughing, breathlessness and intolerance to exercise and can lead to death.

All of these can have severe consequences in your animal; some can also cause disease in humans. 

Page last modified: 2 April 2009

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