We would tell you about “Leishmaniasis Disease” in dogs. The reason of this is due to the case of petcollars users’ female dog talking about this illness on petcollars forum. So we have decided to make a brief and easy article to explain this unknown dog disease in some countries.

What is the “Canine Leishmaniasis”?

The “Canine Leishmaniasis” is a dog disease caused by a parasite called Leishmania which is transmitted by the bite of some female sand flies called Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia. The Leishmania parasite lives inside of some immune system cells of the mammals. Its biological cycle is completed inside of sand fly digestive tract where the microorganism reproduces.




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This disease is quite frequent in dogs who are from soft climate areas such as Mediterranean area, although there is a lot of data about the Canine Leishmaniasis is present in all the continents of the World, less Australia and Antarctica.

Leishmaniasis is included in the group of the contagious illnesses which are considered as an important economic and sanitary sickness by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

What are the most common symptoms in dogs?

The symptoms caused by Leishmania infection in dogs are associated with a cutaneous and visceral reaction. The most first common symptoms are usually cutaneous and they are often the hair loss around the eyes, nose and ears, also some ulcers on the parts of the skin which usually be contacted with ground when the dog sits or lies down, are really often appear.


As the disease goes by, the visceral reaction starts appearing with unspecific symptoms in a few months like the dog loses weight though it keeps an appetite. Finally, most of the whole infected dogs develop visceral or systemic disease symptoms related to kidney or liver failure in many cases.

The Canine Leishmaniasis is featured in a wide unspecific amount of symptoms. The main organ systems affected can be the skin, kidneys, spleen, liver, eyes, and joints. According to the number of symptoms that are present in the dog, it can be classify in three different groups: asymptomatic, oligo symptomatic (1-2 symptoms) and symptomatic (more than 2 symptoms).

My dog will die by this illness?

Unfortunately, the Canine Leishmaniasis is an illness which causes death in the most of the infected dogs if they aren’t treated and given surveillance properly. Despite of the treatment, these parasites will never be entirely eliminated but the infection will be controlled.

What are the main focal points of the Canine Leishmaniasis in the World?

The Canine Leishmaniasis is very widespread in South America and the whole of Mediterranean basin countries like Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Malt, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.It is quite frequent in Africa and south-east Asian countries as well.

dhje9879Affected dogs in the United States are often found to have acquired the Leishmania infection in another country, specially the Mediterranean area. There have also been sporadic cases confirmed in Switzerland, northern France, and the Netherlands. Endemic cases in Oklahoma and Ohio have been reported in dog populations as well.

The temperature of a zone is one of the main factors which is related to existence of the sand flies which are causal of transmission of Leishmania parasite to the dogs. The most hottest months of the year are involved a high risk to contract the illness in these areas.

Is the bite of Phlebotomus or Lutzomyia the only way of transmission to dogs?

Yes, it is the only known way of transmission to dogs.

Where do these sand flies live? What is the time of the day do they usually bite?

Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia sand flies frequent live in caves, cracks of the ground, houses in ruins, dumping site, sewers, badly-airy basements, farm building and beside rivers or ponds. The activity of these sand flies is all the night long and start in the dusk and go on till the dawn. They don’t bite during the day. Because of the tiny size of them,  Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia can’t fly in rough winds.

Is there anything to prevent the Leishmania infection?

The best way to fight against the Leishmania infection is the prevention by mosquito repellent products such as specific dog collars or spot-on drops


If you are thinking of taking a journey to Leishmania high risk region, some advice can be useful: Put a specific Leishmania dog collar on your dog, pets sleep inside home, put thick mosquito net onto the windows and decrease the strolls with your dog beside a river or pond when the sun sets because of the sand flies are much activer in those spots at that moment of the day

*We must tell you that Canine Leishmaniasis is a zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease is a sickness which can be transmitted from animals to people or, more specifically, a disease that frequently exists in animals but it can infect humans.

Don’t be panic! We don’t want to scare you! The disease can be only transmitted by the bite of a Phlebotomus or Lutzomyia sand flies.


Dogs only act as a natural reservoir; In biology, a natural reservoir is a living being where the virus, bacteria, parasite or another microorganism lives and reproduces for a long time. Unfortunately, dogs are the main natural reservoir of this disease and they go through the symptoms.

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Rev. sci. tech. Off. Int Epiz., 2004, 23 (2), 661-676 M. Gallego