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Veterinary Care

Italy - Veterinary Care

There are 16 veterinary schools in Italy, which is a rather high figure, considering that the Netherlands has just one. The standard of pet health care is very high, with the main difference being that Italians favour a more hands-on approach. A local Italian vet will often describe a pet’s problem to the owner in graphic detail, which can be a slightly disturbing discussion for pet owners who are used to more circumspect and euphemistic conversations about their pet’s health. The owner will then receive instructions regarding what medications to give the pet and even how to administer injections if required.

Italy outlawed the euthanasia of healthy companion animals in the 90s, and a decade later, they lifted their ban on certain dog breeds that were considered to be “dangerous”. A recent poll showed that 85% of the Italian population is actively concerned about animal wellbeing, which is more than the UK (which came in at 75%) and France (a mere 65%). Italy has embraced laws that decrease restrictions on animals while increasing the responsibility on their owners to ensure that their pets do not harm others. There are also several animal protective organisations throughout the country.

Animal hospitals in Italy offer excellent surgical and dental care, as well as preventative health care. The staff are generally very courteous, but expats may face a slight language barrier, depending on their location and on their own familiarity with the local language and dialect. Medical services provided by these hospitals include vaccinations, medical tests such as ultrasound and x-rays, surgery, and dentistry; some even offer herbal care and other alternative medical options. You can find more information on the website of the Italian Veterinary Medical Association (ANMVI), which is also known as the l'Associazione Nazionale Medici Veterinari Italiani, at http://www.anmvi.it/formazione/anmvi-international/about-anmvi-international.html

As a pet owner in a new country, it is advisable for every pet owner to discuss the possible threats to their pet’s health with their local vet. Italy’s most common pet dangers include Leishmaniasis, poison, heat stroke, and, most surprisingly for many people, traffic.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease, which is transmitted by a tiny sandfly. The most common symptoms of Canine Leishmaniasis include progressive weight loss coupled with decreased appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and kidney failure, which results in increased water intake and urination. This disease is most prevalent in the south, and you can buy a special collar to deter sandflies. The flies are most likely to bite dogs at night (between 2 and 4 am), so any recommend keeping dogs indoors at night.

Poison is a very real threat in certain areas in Italy, and while some hamlets may not have a single recorded case, the neighbouring ones may have a dozen or more. Poisoned bait is sometimes laid out for foxes and other wild animals, and may inadvertently be accessed by household pets, but in other cases, there can be a more sinister motive. Truffle hunting is a serious business in certain areas, as it is very lucrative. An unusually dry summer can cause the price of truffles to double, and this has been known to lead to an all-out poison war amongst truffle hunters. As many as 50 dogs have been killed by poisoning during a single season. This form of malicious poisoning is not a new problem, and since Italy is the only exporter of white truffles, the number of dogs who die from poisoning has not declined over the years. Owners should be very careful when taking their dogs out for a walk. Anywhere in the world, it is advisable to teach your dog not to eat anything that you have not personally handed to him, and this is a particularly safe approach in Italy.

Heat stroke is a common problem in the summer, especially in the months of July and August, when temperatures can soar to over 40 degrees. Cats and dogs are more susceptible than humans to heat stroke when they are confined in vehicles, as they cannot produce whole body sweat to stay cool. The most common symptoms of a heatstroke are panting, excessive drooling, and an uncoordinated or drunken gait. If your dog suffers a heat stroke, place him gently in a bathtub of cool water with only his head raised above the water level. Do not use cold water, as this could cause hypothermia.

Most vets in Italy speak at least a little English, and it is unusual for expats to have any problems in getting their message across. However, those who prefer to see a vet who speaks English fluently can visit http://www.petsinitaly.com/english-speaking-vets/. It is also advisable to learn a few Italian words and phrases that will help to communicate the very basics, at least in this area if no other, and owners can find a short but helpful list here: http://www.petsinitaly.com/cat-and-dog-vocabulary/

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