This protozoal infection, spread by sandflies, is extremely common throughout the Mediterranean but does not exist in the UK. It is a threat to dogs visiting large parts of continental Europe. The parasite affects white blood cells. A sandfly picks up infected white blood cells when feeding on an infected dog and transmits them to another when it takes another meal. There are two forms of this serious disease. In the usually non-fatal skin (cutaneous) form, an affected dog develops crusty, dandruffy areas that may become discoloured, even ulcerated. In the almost always fatal visceral form there is anemia, sometimes diarrhea and almost always liver and spleen involvement. Affected dogs lose their vigour and may look emaciated.
This disease is diagnosed by finding organisms in smears taken from lymph nodes or in skin scrapings. Anti-Leishmania drugs are licensed in some countries but not others. Even with treatment the prognosis is poor for any dog with visceral leishmania
Sandflies bite at night. If you visit central or southern France, Italy, the eastern Adriatic, Greece, Spain or Portugal, keep your dog indoors from dusk until dawn. Contact us for advice of ways to reduce the risk of sandfly bites.