Dog leishmaniasis is one of the most dangerous diseases for animals. This disease puts the animal’s health at risk, as there are currently no drugs that can cure it.
The parasites responsible for leishmaniasis mostly strike during the warmer months, which is why it is good to take preventive measures in good time.
What is dog leishmaniasis?
Canine leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection caused by the bite of parasitic insects called phlebotomists. These small insects, smaller than the mosquito, are the vehicle for leishmania. The only way to be infected is through the bite, so the parasite cannot be transmitted from dog to dog.
Where is leishmania widespread?
Leishmania-carrying insects prefer warm climates. The areas where the disease is most prevalent are East Africa, south-east Asia and areas of Europe with a coastline, such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and southern France. In Italy, on the other hand, there are endemic areas where the disease is rooted. These are the regions of central and southern Italy, although, due to climate change, the phenomenon is taking hold more or less everywhere.
When does contagion occur?
As parasites love warm weather, the period of greatest risk of infection is from May to October. The insects are mainly active from dusk to dawn. It is therefore advisable to return home from walks before dusk and to protect your dog by having him sleep inside with the mosquito nets down.
Symptoms of leishmaniasis in dogs
Leishmaniasis can cause a variety of clinical symptoms, the severity of which depends on the location of the bite and the degree of contagion. The disease manifests itself in a generalised manner, affecting different parts of the body. Common symptoms include
- tiredness and weakness
- loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- enlarged lymph nodes
- skin lesions
- eye lesions
- loss of hair
- renal failure
Is leishmaniasis curable?
Unfortunately, to date there are no drugs that can cure leishmaniasis. Early diagnosis can help slow down the course of the disease. However, once your dog tests positive, he will have to undergo cyclical clinical tests to assess the status of the parasite in his body.
How to prevent leishmaniasis in dogs?
The only way to protect your dog from leishmaniasis is prevention, which consists of two important steps: the vaccine and anti-parasitic prophylaxis. In addition, to prevent the onset of leishmaniasis in dogs, it is recommended to limit evening walks and walks along watercourses, the preferred habitat of parasites.
The first vaccine for leishmaniasis was introduced in 2012. Progress has been made over the years, leading to significant improvements. The vaccine we now have for the prevention of leishmaniasis is simpler and effective in a shorter time. It requires only one injection (unlike the first one which required three) and is effective after about a month. For the dog to be covered, however, an annual booster is necessary. It does not exclude the occurrence of the disease, but it mitigates its development. The vaccine can be inoculated after six months of age and after a blood test.
The anti-parasite prophylaxis
To ensure greater protection than the vaccine, it is advisable to combine prophylaxis with anti-parasite treatment. As the presence of parasites varies depending on the area, your vet should be consulted.
Leishmaniasis is a very serious disease that can affect dogs, especially in the warmer months. This is why the right time for prevention and vaccination is between February and March. This will ensure that your dog is adequately protected in the summer.