Leishmaniasis is a medical term used for the disease brought about by a parasite called Leishmania, transmitted from infected dogs to healthy dogs through a mosquito called Phlebotomus which lives in our geographical area.
Leishmaniasis in dogs is a very serious condition, even life- threatening if not detected and treated in time.
Leishmaniasis in dogs can be cutaneous (affects the skin) or visceral (affects internal organs). In the first case, the prognosis is less severe, and in the second, the main systems affected are the renal system, the nerves system (causing neuralgia), skeletal system (causing inflammation of the muscles and joint pain). In both cases, animals will need lifetime treatment, there is no permanent cure. For this reason, it is vital to keep our pets away from mosquitoes.
The first clinical symptom and the most common is hair loss, specially around the eyes, ears and muzzle. As the disease progresses, there is weight loss although no loss of appetite. Skin ulcers, particularly on the head, legs and body areas where the dog is in contact with the floor when sitting or lying. When the disease becomes chronic, it becomes more severe, with the onset of visceral complications.
The disease can be avoided with a vaccine that can be given to healthy dogs as young as six months. This vaccine gives the animal immunity to this parasite, so when the animal is bitten by the mosquito, the disease will not develop. The vaccine is administered three consecutive times with a three-week lapse between shots, and then a yearly reminder after this.
There are other ways of preventing the mosquito bite and protecting our pet from the disease, such as: Anti-parasite collars to repel mosquitoes. Anti-parasite sprays to use externally. Fumigate our gardens. Avoid visiting damp, hot places, and keeping our pet away from rivers where mosquitoes thrive.
Treatment for Leishmaniasis is very costly and it doesn´t protect our dog entirely from relapse, but it will increase the chances of survival and greatly reduce the symptoms of the disease, helping our pet live longer with good quality of life. The earlier the detection of the disease and the faster treatment is administered, the greater the chances of survival.