Your dog’s skin may be the only visible sign that your furry friend is carrying canine leishmaniosis. Different pathological changes to the skin and fur are the most common signs of infection with this dangerous disease. But the diagnosis is tricky, as it can be hard to distinguish canine leishmaniosis from other dermatological conditions. While knowing how to recognize and diagnose the disease is important, preventing infection in the first place should be paramount.
It's the warm and sunny summer months, when activity of a sand flies peaks. These little flying parasites can transmit a serious disease to dogs: Canine leishmaniosis. The disease is prevalent on almost all continents, but is particularly a problem in Latin America and Southern Europe, where an estimated 2.5 million dogs are infected with Leishmania infantum1, the organism that is causing leishmaniosis. Left untreated, it can have fatal consequences for the dog.
Canine leishmaniosis was the opening topic of the European College of Veterinary Dermatology (ECVD) Congress, namely its diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The annual congress held this year in Dubrovnic, Croatia, brings together specialist dermatologists and veterinarians from across the globe to discuss the latest developments in the field. This year, Bayer highlighted the importance of preventing canine leishmaniosis, given its spread across South America and Southern Europe.2
However, canine leishmaniosis is becoming an increasingly important global disease. Its distribution is growing due to climate change and more frequent pet travel, requiring pet owners and veterinarians to be vigilant whether the dog shows any signs of leishmaniosis. This caution is needed not only in endemic areas but also in dogs adopted from such areas or with a history of travel.
Looking out for skin lesions
As skin and fur may show the only visible signs that a dog is carrying canine leishmaniosis, it is important for pet owners to look out for skin lesions on their dog. Signs to look out for include areas of scaly skin or baldness (usually on the head, around the eyes or on the ears) and sores that are slow to heal.
‘’It is important that veterinarians are comfortable with recognising the clinical signs associated with canine leishmaniosis,” says Professor Patrick Bourdeau, a European veterinary specialist. “Dermatological lesions are a common finding, but the variability of these lesions can confuse matters, especially if the veterinarian has not seen cases previously. In dogs with a history of travel I’d always recommend testing.’’
Prevention of infection is key
Beyond vigilance, prevention of canine leishmaniosis is a key strategy for veterinarians. Recently SerestoTM has been approved to reduce the risk of infection with Leishmania infantum for up to 8 months in many European countries, and thereby has been proven to be an effective and long-lasting tool in a strategy to protect dogs from acquiring this dangerous disease.
This is echoed by the non-profit scientific association LeishVet , that recommends prevention should include the use of a long-acting topical insecticide throughout the period of sand fly activity, stating. ‘‘Long-acting topical insecticides applied to dogs living in or travelling to endemic areas should be maintained during the entire risk period of potential exposure to/or activity of sand flies.’’
For responsible pet owners, there is nothing more important than knowing their pet is happy and healthy. So, if the dog is safe and protected during the sand fly season, pet owners can enjoy the happy moments of life together.
1 Otranto, D. et al. (2013) The prevention of canine leishmaniasis and its impact on public health. Trends in Parasitology, July 2013, Vol 29;7, 339-345