Information about canine leishmania
What is leishmaniasis (leishmania)?
Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease transmitted to dogs by a tiny sandfly. The sandfly is active between dusk and dawn and is common in all Mediterranean. When an infected sandfly bites a dog, the dog is in danger of contracting the disease, unless it is protected by an insect repellent collar.
What happens if a dog is diagnosed with leishmaniasis?
Leishmaniasis cannot currently be cured, but it can be treated. A dog with leishmaniasis can live a happy and healthy life for many years. The usual treatment is with Allopurinol tablets, which are cheap and readily available as they are used for treatment of gout in humans.
Vets in countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, routinely treat infected dogs rather than euthanise them. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the more successful the treatment is, but there are no guarantees. An owned dog, who is well fed and nourished, is of course likely to respond to treatment better than a stray dog who lives on scraps scavenged from the streets.
What other precautions should be taken in dogs who have leishmaniasis?
The dogs need regular monitoring via blood tests. At least once a year a test should be done to measure the level of leishmaniasis antibodies in the blood. This test can be done in Bristol in the UK. A general blood test should also be done to ensure that the dog’s kidneys and other organs are all functioning well. This can be done by any veterinarian. Information about Low Purine Diet and BARF/Raw Feeding is available on this site.
Can leishmaniasis be transmitted to other dogs or humans?
There is NO danger of leishmaniasis being transmitted to other dogs in the UK and there is no danger of the disease being transmitted to humans. The sandfly that transmits the disease does not exist in the UK and canine leishmaniasis is not the same disease that affects humans in some parts of the world.
Are dogs all tested for Leishmaniasis?
Yes, ALL dogs we bring into the UK are blood-tested for leishmaniasis before they leave Greece. However there is always a slight possibility that a dog who tests negative prior to leaving Greece may, a few months later (or even a year or two later) start showing symptoms of the disease. It is therefore wise to blood-test the dogs at least once a year for a couple of years. Your vet will need to send the blood sample to a laboratory in Bristol. The test should be done sooner, of course, if any symptoms of Leishmaniasis are noted.
What are the symptoms of leishmaniasis?
Sometimes there are no symptoms and the dog seems perfectly fit. However, common symptoms are:-
- Weight loss
- Anemia and lethargy – your dog may not be ‘just lazy’
- Hair loss and skin lesions – particularly around the face, eyes and ears
- ‘Dandruff’ noted in the coat
- Long and thick claws
Most UK vets have little or no experience with Leishmaniasis and will welcome our input. It is imperative that you contact us before you take your dog to a vet, should you worry that he/she may be infected.
If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, either before or after you adopt a dog via us, please contact us immediately, especially if your dog is unwell and if you are uncertain about what to do. We all want your dog to enjoy a long and happy life and we are here to help and support you.
Facebook Group 'Living with Leish' is also a useful and supportive resource for owners of dogs with leishmania.
A short piece by Heather Brooker, a sponsor and supporter
It's so upsetting seeing dogs with leishmaniasis being overlooked. These poor dogs have been through so much in their lives and deserve the chance of a secure loving home, but unfortunately, due to the life they have endured they are now overlooked because they have had the misfortune to have contracted leish'. Its understandable why most people would want a 'healthy' dog. Although, even healthy dogs can become dogs with 'conditions' - breathing problems, hip dysplasia, diabetes, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer etc etc.
In amongst the myths and scaremongering, here are some of the more positive facts and quotes:
'Leishmaniasis is a controllable disease that affects some Mediterranean dogs, it is transmitted by the sandfly mosquito'
'Most dogs that test positive are treated and live long and happy lives with no symptoms at all once they have moved to the UK'
'Many dogs receiving treatment will live happily until they are old, just by being treated with Allopurinol (human gout tablets that can be purchased over the counter at the chemist), Prevention in the form of a annual test for leishmaniasis'.
Leish' cannot be passed on, either to human or dog. It is caught by being bitten by a sandfly - we do not have sandflies in this country, so therefore there is no threat.
'Infection does not invariably lead to illness. In fact, most infected dogs remain asymptomatic and may never develop clinical manifestations'.
Stress is a big factor with Leishmaniasis, so once a dog is in a secure home, the likelihood is that the levels will drop. The following is taken from a Spanish rescue page:
'We work with rescuers in Spain, who have over 20 years experience of helping dogs, working hand in hand with vets to gain an understanding of Leishmaniasis. They have learnt that the one significant contributing factor which stands out above all others is STRESS. A dog who has been living under the stress of abandonment, cruelty, parasitic infestation, near starvation, giving birth every 6 months in the street etc. will most certainly test positive. But once that same dog is in a safe and secure environment, free from stress and treated for parasites, the drop in the leish' count can be dramatic. They also site examples where dogs have become negative. So in many cases, remove the stress, take the dog out of “Sandfly” country – problem solved!'
Insurance, however can be problematic, although many people find that, with the rising cost of insurance premiums and the excesses, it is often more cost effective not to insure their dogs anyway and instead put money aside.
Most vets in the UK have little or no knowledge, although there are an increasing number who. now do. It is therefore very important that you contact Give a Dog a Home before taking any dog with this condition to a vet.
It is a fact that there are now more people in this country on medication than not, it seems sad that we still have misgivings about adopting a dog that needs medication.
Of course there are no guarantees with any dog, but as you can see, apart from a daily inexpensive tablet or two, dogs with Leishmaniasis can live as long a life as any other dog.