Leishmaniosis is a tropical disease that affects mainly dogs in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South and Central America. The “sand fly” (phlebotombus) sucks blood from a dog infected with leishmania, transforms them into infectious amastigotes and injects them into a healthy dog. Then two things can happen:
1. The dog has a good immune system and destroys the amastigotes
2. It does not have a functional immune system (for whatever reason) or there are too many and the amastigotes infect the white blood cells, multiply inside the cell, destroy the white blood cell and each of the 4 new ones infect another 4 white blood cells, etc. Meanwhile healthy white blood cells try to destroy the infected white blood cells forming globulins which are too big for the small arteries in the body and they get stuck, causing skin lesions (ie at the tip of the ears, nose, feet), kidney damage, liver damage, intestinal damage etc. Untreated it will lead to death.
The disease is treatable with injections or an oral medicine combined with tablets, but unfortunately not curable. The Leishmania hides away in the bone marrow and will return to the bloodstream when the immune system fails.
Leishmaniosi and humans
Humans can get Leishmania by being infected by the same sandflies and not directly from the dogs because the sandfly needs to transform the protozoa into the infectious stage.
How to prevent Leishmaniosi
Prevention is the most important defense against this disease. It is MOST important that your dog is not at risk of being bitten by the “sand fly”, which behaves as a mosquito. They are most active at dawn and dusk and early night, they do not only live in the sand! They live in bushes and need water to multiply. Protect your dog with a collar, spot-on or spray that repels the “sand fly”. Improve your dog’s immune system with a balanced diet and proper grooming and parasite control. Leis guard is a product to be given every 3 months to boost the immune response against the Leishmania. Vaccinations are available in which the dog has 3 vaccinations with a 3 week interval in the first year to give an 80% protection; yearly revaccination will improve the protection every year.
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