Canine Leishmaniasis is one of a number of diseases that occur in Mediterranean and Tropical areas. It is transmitted by a species of sand fly that does not occur in the UK. There is always a possibility that your dog may acquire this disease if they accompany you to any of the areas where it is endemic e.g. Spain, Italy, etc. The disease may remain dormant in the dog for years before showing any symptoms. It is also very difficult to diagnose. There is a great variation in symptoms. Some dogs suffer from severe skin lesions while other dogs have none at all. Tests for Leishmaniasis can often be unreliable, giving a negative result when the disease is actually present. Bone marrow samples give a better result but this involves a general anesthetic and an often painful procedure. This is not something I would recommend on a dog that is already ill.
There is also a confusing amount of information available on websites – much of which can seem to be contradictory. I have recently had to deal with this disease in a dog (Lopez) who came originally from the Rome Greyhound track when it closed some three years ago. He has shown no signs of illness until a few months ago when he started to become listless and I knew something was not quite right.
This disease has rarely been seen by vets in the UK although, with dogs traveling more frequently on the new pet passport scheme, it is likely to become more common. However, the main drug (Glucantime) used to treat the disease is not licensed for use in this country. Various documentation must be supplied by the vet in order to obtain an STA (Special Treatment Authority) to treat an animal suffering from Can. Leishmaniasis. This can cause a further delay while the dog may be very ill. It may also take some time to obtain a positive diagnosis prior to treatment. It is essential to inform the veterinary surgeon immediately that the dog has been in a country where the disease is common. It is quite possible for a dog to be tested negative, even spend six months in quarantine, live normally for years, and then be found to be affected.
If anyone is worried that their dog might be suffering from Leishmaniasis, they should visit their vet for tests to be done. A small amount of blood can be taken from the inside of the ear flap and sent away for analysis. The results take only a few days though they are not always conclusive. I would be happy to talk to anyone who is in this situation and share my own experiences with them. It sometimes helps to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience. Lopez has completed his course of injections and now remains on the oral drug, Allopurinol. There is no cure for this disease but it can usually be contained, though the dog may have relapses. It is not transferable to other dogs in this country but is only passed through the bite of the particular species of sand fly. The charity Greyhounds In Need is very experienced in this area as they rescue many dogs from countries where the disease is common. Their website contains information that might also be useful.
It is highly advisable for anyone taking their dog abroad to purchase a Scalibor Protector Collar for their dog, in addition to the usual vaccinations etc. These have been shown to be reasonably effective in protecting the dog from the sand fly.