Leishmaniosis is an illness caused by mosquitos called flebótomos. It is a serious illness and with fatal consequences in a lot of cases.
It mainly affects dogs , but can be found in other animals and in humans too.
The mosquitos in warm periods (spring – summer – autumn) extract blood from infected dogs and then transmit these parasites into new animals or even human beings.
The parasite inside the mosquito needs between 4 – 25 days before it is passed on to the new victim. This explains why the transmision of the illness is not direct, dog to dog, but through the flebótomo mosquito, who comes out every evening to find blood and then retreats to their “hiding place“ and probably never repeats its victims.
The “victim” will develop a defence mechanism, which will depend on the capacity to resistance to the illness or on the other hand the animal will become ill and develop the symptoms of the illness.
The clinical symptoms are varied and can be present or not, according to each individual patient, which can complicate the diagnosis, especially for doctors that are not used to work with dogs with Leishmaniosis.
External signs could be grouped into: hair loss, exagerated claw growth, ulcers on the pads, callouses on the elbows etc , and internal signs: kidney failure , eye conditions, arthritis, weight loss, anemia ………
The strategies to prevent Leishmanosis are very varied. None of them can asure 100% efficient protection, so we must use various to reduce the risk and minimise the risk of infection.
We can use collars and spot-on drops that prevent the mosquito bite. Their efficiency is appreciable but insufficient to guarantee a total protection.
Keeping animals inside after dark is a compliment to the fight, but does not offer security.
Actually, two very interesting systems have been developed, in which the scientific community have great faith.
One is the “vaccine” against Leishmaniosis (Canileish by Virbac), it offers security and a good measure of protection, which reaches 70 – 90% in vaccinated dogs. The method is comfortable and safe, with protection all year round. The only inconvience is that the cost is slightly higher than other products.
On the other hand, a lot of investigation about the behaviour of the immune system of dogs confronted with an attack of Leishmania has been done, fruit of which a new product has been developed (Leishguard by Esteve) which acts on the immune system of the dog, the goal being to obtain a correct immune answer and with that, develop a natural resistence against Leishmaniosis. It is very interesting that this illness can be prevented and also help infected dogs recuperate quicker and better.
Existing treatments do not guarantee the elimination of the illness, but in the majority of cases, optimal levels of welfare for the animal are obtained, although, in some cases treatment is not efficient and the prognostic becomes bad or even very bad.
It is recommendable to have our pets checked each year to out-rule the existence of incipiente Leishmaniosis or a state of “Leishmaniosis free”, to then be able to, with your veterinary’s advice, adopt the best way forward.