Leishmaniasis is an infectious disease that occurs mainly in dogs and is caused by the pathogen Leishmania infantum , which is transmitted through the bites of certain sand flies (phlebotomines). Leishmaniasis is endemic in southern Europe, especially in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, but also in the Middle East, Central and South America and partly in Asia and the USA.
From the time of infection, it can take three months to seven years or longer for the disease to break out. Dogs from abroad are more frequently infected and should be tested for leishmaniasis for the first time after three months at the earliest.
There are three different forms of the disease: cutaneous, mucocutaneous and visceral, the latter being the most problematic. Which form occurs depends on various factors, such as the immune status of the dog.
In the case of the skin form, skin changes in the head area predominate, such as the typical changes at the ear rims, so-called ear rim necroses, while initially there is no itching.
The first signs of visceral leishmaniasis are swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, loss of appetite and weakness. Skin changes, e.g. loss of fur, inflammations, nodules, keratinisation as well as anaemia and kidney problems are also typical.
The diagnosis is made by blood tests or skin biopsies at the veterinarian. The first step is the determination of antibodies in the blood, which is used together with other laboratory parameters to make a reliable diagnosis.
The therapy primarily aims to improve the clinical symptoms, since a cure in the sense of complete pathogen elimination is unfortunately not possible with the current medications. The treatment regimen depends on the severity of the symptoms and the laboratory findings and is prepared individually accordingly.
Feeding also plays an important role in the treatment of leishmaniasis. It makes sense to give a ration that is easy on the kidneys, with a moderate amount of high-quality protein. In addition, depending on the symptoms, essential fatty acids for skin health, vitamins E and zinc to support the immune system can be used.
When administering the drug allopurinol, care must also be taken to feed a low-purine diet to prevent the formation of urinary stones. Allopurinol inhibits the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which is necessary for the breakdown of purine. This inhibition can lead to an increased formation of uric acid and thus to an increased risk of urinary stone formation (urates). Purines are building blocks of DNA and are found in high amounts in foods rich in cell nuclei, such as offal, yeasts, seaweed and certain types of fish and shellfish. Low levels of purines are found in dairy products and especially in eggs. The preparation of home-made rations specially designed for the animal are therefore a very good alternative to commercial diets. Feeding plans for low-purine balanced rations for different weight classes can be found, for example, in our shop for food supplements. We would also be happy to advise you individually.
Tips for travelling with your dog
If you are travelling to the south with your dog, please remember to use appropriate mosquito protection, e.g. a special spot-on or a collar (repellent). Especially after dusk, your dog should not leave the house unprotected. Ideally, the rooms in which you or your dog are staying should also be equipped with a close-meshed grid on the windows and doors.
You can also have your dog vaccinated as a preventive measure, whereby the vaccination does not protect against infection, but against the outbreak of the disease. Your veterinarian will be happy to advise you on this.