Our dog can also be attacked by viruses, bacteria and parasites. Such is the case of canine Leishmaniasis, an infectious disease, which if not treated in time can produce serious consequences in its health, even death, but which can be prevented if our pet uses pipettes or antiparasitic collars.
This disease called Leishmaniasis or Canine Leishmaniosis is of the infectious type, being transmitted by a microscopic parasite known as Leishmania (its scientific name is Leishmania infantum), through a mosquito of the genus Phlebotomus. It can occur in both humans and animals, since the contagion is generated through the bite of the phlebotom. This insect is less than 4 millimeters in size and is similar in appearance to a mosquito. Once it has bitten an infected animal or person, it becomes a carrier of the parasite and transmits the disease to another host.
According to specialized studies, this disease has an approximate prevalence of 70% in Spain at present, due to the fact that the mosquito is found in almost all the national geography and at any time of the year, thanks to the effects of global warming. But during the months of May to October the mosquito is more abundant, producing greater risks of bites during the dawn or dusk of the day. However, the risk of contagion can also increase if our dog is outdoors, in a hot and humid area.
Clinical characteristics of the disease
The symptoms or clinical signs of this disease are variable and depend on the degree of affectation of the dog and the location of the parasite, there are even occasions where the animal does not present any sign of infection, being very late if there is not an annual checkup.
According to veterinarian Pedro Ruf, vice-president of the Madrid Association of Companion Animal Veterinarians (AMVAC) and also owner of the Arganzuela Veterinary Clinic, the symptoms that commonly occur in dogs are: lack of appetite and vitality, weight loss, which are not very specific for an accurate diagnosis.
In the skin and hair, there are also some symptoms, such as loss of hair around the eyes or ears, they have trouble healing wounds, nails grow out of control. Also, areas such as joints are affected, which generate lameness intermittently and in some cases are difficult to control.
But in the most extreme cases, organs such as the liver and kidneys can be affected, which aggravates the animal’s condition, making it more difficult to control the disease.
However, it is recommended that in the event of a dangerous situation due to the appearance of any of these clinical symptoms, or under normal conditions, our dog should be checked by a vet, to rule out any disease, not just Leishmaniasis.
If your vet confirms your dog’s suspicions of infection, he’ll probably order some tests to confirm his diagnosis, most commonly a blood test for antibodies or also a PCR, which is a blood test where the DNA of the parasite is amplified. Other more advanced tests are cytology and bone marrow aspiration, especially used for cases of dubious symptoms.
It is important to emphasize, that this disease is chronic and incurable in canines, even can cause the death of these vertebrates, but the dog does not transmit it to other animals or humans directly, although as it is an endemic and seasonal disease could occur contagion in humans, but the incidence is very low, since the infection is not as violent as in dogs, so our immune system can combat it quickly and effectively.
Treatment of Leishmaniasis infection
Being sure that your dog’s condition is due to a Leishmaniasis infection, depending on its affection the treatment could be very expensive, because it is a disease that has no cure and where the dog is prone to have relapses, but there are different ways to improve the symptoms considerably to control the infection, as long as it is taken regularly to the vet to prevent the appearance of new outbreaks of the parasite, so that the animal can lead an almost normal life without complications due to the disease.
Good health and age also play a role, as dogs that have good immunity and are young can be infected and live with the parasite all their lives without major problems, unlike an old dog with a weak immune system.
Ways to prevent Leishmaniasis infection in dogs
The main way to prevent this type of infection in dogs, is to comply faithfully with their vaccination schedule, since the vaccine against Leishmaniasis can be applied in healthy dogs from the age of 6 months, being highly effective in controlling the parasite because it allows the body to develop antibodies, teaching the autoimmune system the right way to defend itself against an attack of this scourge, so that the cells destroy this disease. This vaccine is usually given in three doses during the first year and then one dose per year. It is likely that the vaccine will be somewhat expensive, but keep in mind that treatment in case of infection costs much more, so if you want to have a healthy dog and avoid suffering from this condition, it is worth investing in vaccines.
But apart from the vaccines, there are other elements that can help you prevent canine Leishmaniasis, such as the use of the best anti-parasite collars of the moment (You can find some purchase options here), because through them you can contribute to the prevention of phlebotomine bites, especially in those cases where the animal sleeps outdoors, since they act as a mosquito repellent.
You can also prevent the mosquito bite with pipettes, depending on the level of exposure to the infection. But with these accessories you must take certain precautions if the animal gets wet, because it can happen that with the water these antiparasitic treatments lose their effectiveness.
You can also use external repellents on the dog’s skin to act as an anti-parasite and apply them regularly, as well as periodically spraying areas with a high level of mosquito activity. Remember that all this will help you protect your pet’s health.