Leishmania diagnosed at Vet4life

leishmania-cellsWe have recently had a case of Leishmania diagnosed at the practice and as a lot of our clients and pets travel abroad we would like everyone to be aware of this disease. It is of particular concern to us as once dogs are infected they cannot be cured of the disease. Treatment can be initiated but is expensive and patients require long-term monitoring. If caught late, the disease can be fatal. So prevention of infection is definitely preferable!

If your dog is travelling abroad please contact us so we can advise you about appropriate measures to reduce the risk of contracting this disease.

What is Leishmania?

Leishmaniasis is a prevalent disease in much of Europe and warmer areas of the world. It is an infection that is caused by a protozoal (single celled) organism which lives in host bodies and is spread by female sand flies. Dogs are the principal reservoir hosts for this infection. Although it is not currently commonly seen in the UK, dogs that are travelling abroad are at risk of contracting the disease.

Signs of Leishmania

There are a wide variety and combination of clinical signs that can be seen and active infection can be quite debilitating. Dogs can develop skin lesions such as baldness with sores and itchy broken skin that is slow to heal. This usually occurs over prominent bony areas like elbows and knees but can also occur around the face.

skin-lesions-leishmaniaThere is also a visceral form of the disease where the leishmania organisms affect organ systems like the liver, kidneys and bone marrow. Severe cases can lead to liver or kidney failure and can be fatal. Additional signs that are sometimes seen are shifting or intermittent lameness, weight loss, anaemia, fever and lethargy.

You can read more about leishmania and its treatment here. Please contact us at the practice if you would like more information about Leishmania prevention for your canine companion.

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3 Responses to “Leishmania diagnosed at Vet4life”

  1. Marc Richter

    How certain are you about the lack of dog to human transmission of the Leishmaniasis? We are awaiting tissue sample confirmation but it is looking likely that my 7 yr old Kerry Blue Terrier has a case of this infection. I have a newborn and a 2 1/2 yr old. I just want to be sure. American CDC calls Leishmaniasis a zoonotic condition? Any thoughts on this? Thank you for your time!

    • Ian Stroud


      As we don’t have the sandfly in the UK, there is no vector to transmit the disease. There is a report of possible dog to dog transmission in the absence of sand flies and certainly from infected blood products given from one dog to another.

      I found this next paragraph online which may explain things. As I am a Vet and not a Doctor or epidemiologist, I am sure you understand I do not want to comment beyond my area of expertise.

      Human visceral leishmaniosis caused by L infantum is a serious public health problem in areas where canine leishmaniosis is endemic and dogs are the main reservoir of infection. It is mostly a disease of young children. Malnutrition has been recognized as a risk factor and may explain why this disease is more prevalent among children in poor countries than among those in affluent ones, despite high prevalence rates in the canine populations. Human disease is also prevalent in immunosuppressed individuals; HIV patients are the predominant risk group for human leishmaniosis in southern Europe. HIV and leishmaniosis coinfection has been reported from >33 countries worldwide and does not respond well to therapy. Efforts to control canine leishmaniosis and the human disease in endemic areas focus on disrupting the transmission of infection and preventing canine infection at the population level.


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