Canine Leishmaniasis is a serious disease of dogs, which is often fatal. The disease is mainly transmitted by the bite of a tiny mosquito called the sandfly; this disease-causing parasite is a microscopic protozoan called Leishmania ( Leishmania infantum ).
More rarely, it can also transmit from dog to dog, during mating or from the pregnant female to these young.
It can also affect humans and other mammals. The period of activity extends mainly from April to October. 40,000 cases of infected dogs are reported per year. For example, an estimated total of 2.5 million dogs at risk in Europe and 1 million in France.
There is also a spread of the disease in connection with the means of transport, mosquitoes taking the train, the plane and the car!
What are the clinical signs of the disease?
The clinical signs are not specific to Leishmaniasis. But their simultaneous or successive appearance should suggest the origin of the affection. The most common first sign is hair loss, especially around the eyes and on the muzzle. As the disease progresses, the dog begins to lose weight while his appetite remains normal. Pressure sores develop, mainly on the head and limbs (where the skin is in contact with the ground). It occurs when the dog is sitting or lying down. Ulcers can also be seen causing nosebleeds and eye damage. In the advanced stages of the disease, the claws grow at an accelerated rate and tend to curl. It causes a characteristic noise when the dog moves. These signs do not all appear, and especially not at the same stage of the disease. We can also observe periods of remission. The prognosis is always more or less long term death.
What should I do if I think less dog is Leishmanian?
Take the dog to your veterinarian for a blood test. He can also take a bone marrow sample or a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node to look for the parasite under a microscope. He simply performs a rapid blood test which will already give an indication.
Can my dog be treated for canine leishmaniasis?
Yes, it is done by injections, which must be done daily for several weeks. It is a long and expensive treatment which does not make it possible to cure the disease. But which makes it possible to slow down the progression, to reduce the symptoms and to space the relapses.
How long is the incubation period for the disease?
The incubation period can vary from 3 to 18 months . In some rare cases the disease may not appear for several years. Some dogs are resistant and will show no clinical signs after having been bitten by infesting sandflies. They are well fed and are not subjected to significant physiological stress. This resistance of some dogs is undoubtedly of genetic origin.
Can I get the disease if a sandfly bites me?
Yes, but the risk is very, very low and human Leishmaniasis is easily treated. There are very few cases of spontaneous human Leishmaniasis. These cases are in the Mediterranean region, apart from the cases encountered in individuals with a defective immune system, or in drug addicts.
How to recognize a Sandfly and where do they live?
Sandflies are small, hairy mosquitoes with a single pair of wings (2.5 to 3 mm in length). They are different from mosquitoes, fly silently. They vary in color from light straw to dark brown. Before pitching, it hops while keeping its wings high. They bite dogs and humans, and some people can develop an intense allergic reaction to the bite.
Sandflies are generally abundant in rural areas or forested areas of cities, such as gardens and parks. In the Mediterranean region, the sandfly season begins in May and ends in September. This season also begins in October in the event of favorable climatic conditions.
Sandflies start to be active at nightfall, until dawn. Sandflies hide during the day in crevices and faults where they rest. They bite mainly outdoors.
How can I protect my dog?
First, use a suitable insecticide product (see your veterinarian) and avoid leaving your dog outside at nightfall.
Second, if your dog usually lives in a risk area, it is recommended to have him vaccinated against this disease. The vaccine available since 2011. This vaccination will not prevent infection but will increase resistance to this disease. The risk of developing leishmaniasis is thus divided by 4 in vaccinated dogs. The protocol provides for 3 injections at 3 week intervals then an annual booster.
As always, your veterinarian will be your best advisor to discuss the prevention of this dreaded disease.