Leishmaniosis is a parasitic disease which is transmitted by sandflies. It is usually found in Southern Europe, as well as South America, Africa and Asia and it affects dogs and humans.
Leishmaniosis is usually transmitted through a bite from an infected sandfly, but it can also be transmitted by other means such as:
- blood transfusion from an infected dog
- breeding with an infected dog
- bite from an infected dog
The case of a 3 year old male Shih Tzu in Hertfordshire is the first known dog-to-dog transmission of leishmaniosis in the UK. He had never travelled outside the country or had a blood transfusion, but he had lived with a dog imported from Spain who had previously been put down due to severe leishmaniosis.
There has been another case of a dog who became infected after his owners had travelled to Spain, and probably brought back sandflies in their luggage or clothing.
Dogs can be infected with the Leishmania parasite for a long time before they show signs of the disease. Once signs develop, however, they can deteriorate rapidly. The condition is usually fatal.
Signs of Leishmania infection can include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- skin lesions
- weight loss
- pale gums
- eye problems
- nose bleeds
- lameness or swollen joints
The new trend for importing rescue dogs from abroad, as well as increasing pet travel to sandfly-endemic areas, is increasing the risk of this disease in UK dogs. Global warming is also likely to increase the risk of sandflies moving north and living in the UK.