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What are Leishmaniasis?

While a tropical holiday with Fido included may sound like a fantastic idea, you may want to think twice before booking his passport. Leishmaniosis is a parasitic disease that thrives in the warm, tropical climates of places like Portugal, Greece, Brazil, and more. It is thought to be contracted through sandflies of the Phlebotomus species.

Humans and dogs can contract this disease, but dogs are the more common receptors. It can be contracted by two or more dogs through sniffing or ingesting, but it is mostly contracted in the womb or through infected blood. Without treatment, your dog can rapidly deteriorate in health and even die.

Canine Leishmaniosis is a parasitic disorder contracted from Leishmania infantum in mostly Mediterranean and South American areas through sand flies. It is also becoming increasingly prevalent in Foxhound breeds. Leishmania infantum is quite a scary experience for any pet and can be deadly without treatment. If you are considering taking your pet on holiday, make sure that you take necessary precautions. Be active if your dog starts showing clinical signs, as time is of the essence.

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Leishmaniasis Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $18,000

Average Cost

$7,500

Symptoms of Leishmaniasis in Dogs

Because most cases are developed in the womb, symptoms are not very prevalent. It can take anywhere between three weeks to seven years for clinical symptoms of leishmaniosis to show. If a dog’s immune system is strong, it is likely they will never even show symptoms. However, once the immune system fails, your pet will become more and more sick.

The most important signs to be on the lookout for include:

  • Skin lesions - particularly near the head and pressure points

  • Lymphadenopathy - Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Abnormal nails
  • Epitaxis
  • Renal disease symptoms
  • Anaemia

Renal disease is the signs of serious infection. Once your dog’s health has declined to that point, the prognosis is very poor. If you believe your dog to be a carrier, or even if you catch the symptoms early, it is possible your pet will recover.

Types

There is only one known type of leishmaniosis and that is Leishmania infantum. It is also called visceral leishmaniosis. This disease affects mostly dogs in tropical locations, but it has been increasingly noticed in the Foxhound breeds. No one knows why this happens in this one particular breed, but it is thought because they work in swampy or wooded areas, near other animals that could be carriers. There has also been an endemic in the United States in places such as Oklahoma and other southeastern states.

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Causes of Leishmaniasis in Dogs

Leishmaniosis is contracted through sniffing and ingesting, like many other parasitic diseases. The cysts of the parasite enter the body of the carrier through food, soil, feces, or infected water. Once in the body, the parasite slowly completes its lifecycle in the tissues, skin, and bones of the host. The host will then pass the new cysts on through feces, and the cycle begins all over again when a new host picks it up again.

It is also passed on to unborn puppies if the mother is a host. Another possible way of transmission is through eating or ingesting the blood of an infected animal. Usually, a dog will pick it up by only being in a place where the disease is endemic.

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Diagnosis of Leishmaniasis in Dogs

Similar to other parasitic diseases, your veterinarian will do a series of tests to diagnose leishmaniosis. There are three effective routes of diagnosing your pet. The first is through samples from smears or biopsies. They will observe the tissue samples taken from your dog to see if the parasite is living there. This can be tricky as there won’t be many organisms present in all places. They call also test bone marrow, skin, or lymph nodes.

The second method is through an antibody test. This test will be done through the ELISA procedure, which is just a way to measure levels of antibodies. If your dog’s antibodies are high, that means it has an infection. In this case, high antibodies mean the presence of leishmaniosis.

The last and most effective and commonly used method is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The PCR test is the best to use because specialists can look directly at your pet’s DNA and see that there is a change to it, therefore indicating a disease. Parasites infecting an animal’s tissues or cells will alter the DNA in certain places, so veterinarians can see the change and know exactly what the disease is.

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Treatment of Leishmaniasis in Dogs

There are two options when it comes to treating leishmaniosis. The first is a combination of meglumine antimonite and allopurinol - two intense, anti-parasite medicines. This will be taken every day for 28 days, and then the dog will take only allopurinol for anywhere between 6-12 months.

The second option is miltefosine and allopurinol for 28 days, followed by only allopurinol for another 6-12 months. The prescription will depend on the progressiveness of the disease. The stronger the disease has gotten; the more medicines they will have to take. Pets may also have to take antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and malassezia treatment, which is a treatment for the skin lesions they have.

Also adding to the long list of treatments, pets who are starting to have renal disease or failure may have to have additional medicines to support them through that.

What makes this even more complicated is that because leishmaniosis is usually only found in tropical locations, your veterinarian may have to get a special drug license to order the needed medicines to the United States or Canada.

There is no complete cure for leishmaniosis, however after a year of treatment, your pet may not show symptoms anymore and may be able to stop treatment.

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Recovery of Leishmaniasis in Dogs

If caught in time, most dogs will show improvement within the first month. Symptoms will subside in a few weeks noticeably with the treatment. The worse state your pet is in, the longer it will take to recover.

Your pet will have to go in for regular monitoring check-ups at specific points. They will most likely be at one month after treatment, followed by four, six, and a year. Once your pet has made it a year without symptoms and has had positive results from treatment, you will reduce your visits to once or twice a year. They will also be able to stop taking the medication allopurinol if their body functions are normal.

There is a vaccine in the United Kingdom that, while it doesn’t prevent the contraction of leishmaniosis, it helps reduce the risk of developing the clinical signs of the disease. Other forms of prevention include using sandfly repellant and keeping your pets indoors when sand flies are active. This is usually in the months of May to October and around the times of 7 p.m to 7 a.m

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Leishmaniasis Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $18,000

Average Cost

$7,500

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Leishmaniasis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Flora

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mongrel

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10 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Kidney Failure

Hi, our rescued elderly street dog (in Albania) has leishmaniasis. She has had 8 days of injections and tablets but hasn’t eaten for 48 hours. She is still D and V but its watery and orange. She has large cysts on kidneys and first stage kidney failure. She has an enlarged gall bladder with “sediment’ half filling it. Over many months she has had nose bleeds , blood from back passage, increased drinking and urinating, (3 weeks now of diaoreha) and black spots on her paws, tired, achy,dry skin on her ear tip ....but no one picked up on the disease till now - we had never heard of it before as it doesn’t occur in the UK where we are from. Obviously we are devastated and I think she is suffering from the treatment. She has lost a lot of weight now. The vets here told us she has a 30 to 40 % chance before we started the treatment. All she wants is to lie in the garden... we need to make the decision of whether to euthanase , I don’t want to put her in hospital with drips and in an unfamiliar place if she is going to die anyway, But am i giving up too soon?

May 22, 2018

Flora's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Without knowing what medications Flora is on, or any results of her lab testing, I have a hard time commenting on that decision for you, unfortunately. I think that it would be good to have that discussion with your veterinarians who are treating her, as they understand what she is going through and will have her best interest in mind. They'll be able to let you know what her prognosis is, how she's responding, and if things are looking more or less hopeful. I hope that she does well.

May 22, 2018

I'm in the same situation right now and I don't know what to do. My dog has not been improving but getting even more simptoms sinse we have started Milteforan. They say that sighns of recobery should be visible after 2 weeks...have you noticed any changes with your dog?

May 31, 2018

Anastasia B.

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Leika

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Pointer cross

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Skin Lesion

Hi! Another question from Cyprus. I am trying to help a friend treat a rescue dog with liesh. She has been badlyneglected and has obviously had liesh for a long time. My question is, how long can the cysts remain in the soil and infect other dogs, and can cats also be infected? Thanks.

Jan. 25, 2018

Leika's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Leishmaniasis, the medical term used for the diseased condition that is brought about by the protozoan parasite Leishmania, can be categorized by two types of diseases in dogs and cats: a cutaneous (skin) reaction and a visceral (abdominal organ) reaction -- also known as black fever, the most severe form of leishmaniasis. The infection is acquired when sandflies transmit the flagellated parasites into the skin of a host. The incubation period from infection to symptoms is generally between one month to several years. In dogs, it invariably spreads throughout the body to most organs; renal (kidney) failure is the most common cause of death, and virtually all infected dogs develop visceral or systemic disease. As much as 90 percent of infected dogs will also have skin involvement. The main organ systems affected are the skin, kidneys, spleen, liver, eyes, and joints. There is also commonly a skin reaction, with lesions on the skin, and hair loss. There is marked tendency to hemorrhage. It is important to note that leishmaniasis is a zoonotic infection, and the organisms residing in the lesions can be communicated to humans.

Jan. 25, 2018

We rescued a dog from Greece in January 18. We did a check and he has L,Osis Our assumption is that our insurance will say NO HE does have.a lesion on one ear. He was born in June 15. He was at the rescue 18monrhs. About to treat now but have we caught it in time. Bloods. Rental function is fine

April 19, 2018

Dave L.

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Leishmaniasis Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $18,000

Average Cost

$7,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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