Leishmaniasis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Roberto Manzotti

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection caused by Leishmania.

The parasite thrives in tropical or warm climates so, Leishmaniasis in dogs is seen in countries like Brazil, Greece, Portugal, etc. The parasite can infect humans and dogs alike, so, it is something you must look out for.

Sandflies are usually the carriers of the disease.

In this blog post, we will go through everything you need to know about Leishmaniasis in dogs, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Let's get started!


Leishmaniasis In Dogs: What Are They?

Visceral Leishmaniasis

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Symptoms of Leishmaniasis In Dogs

Treatment Options Available

All in All…


Leishmaniasis In Dogs: What Are They?

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that affects humans as well as their four-legged best friends.

Dogs can contract this disease by ingesting the parasite or sniffing it. But, in most cases, they get it in utero or via infected blood.

If left untreated, the disease causes the dog’s health to deteriorate rapidly and may even cause death.

Canine Leishmaniasis is found in South American and Mediterranean regions and is contracted from Leishmania infantum. This disease spreads itself through sand flies and is a cause of concern for Foxhound dog breeds.

Without proper treatment, this disease can be fatal.

Visceral Leishmaniasis

This form of Leishmaniasis affects the organs of your dog’s abdominal cavity. The symptoms include the following:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Loss of appetite or anorexia
  • Severe weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nose bleed
  • Tarry feces which isn’t very common

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

This form of Leishmaniasis affects the dog’s skin. Following are the symptoms that you must watch out for:

  • Hyperkeratosis — This is seen in almost all the cases. It includes depigmentation or the loss of skin color, excessive epidermal scaling with thickening, and chapped muzzle and footpads
  • Intradermal nodules and ulcers
  • Alopecia which causes the dog to have a dry, brittle hair coat and symmetrical hair loss
  • Abnormally long or brittle nails are a specific finding in some patients
  • Nodules develop on the surface of the skin

 The cutaneous form more commonly affects cats.


Symptoms of Leishmaniasis In Dogs

Almost all dogs do develop the visceral form of Leishmaniasis. Statistics also suggest that 90% of the dogs also have cutaneous involvement. 

Following are the clinical signs of the disease:

  • Fever
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite)
  • Weakness, exercise intolerance
  • Severe weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Blood in the stool ( seen as dark, tarry stools, called melena)
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint inflammation
  • Swelling of the testicles
  • Lymphadenopathy which is a disease of the lymph nodes with skin lesions and is found in almost 90 percent of cases
  • Inflammation of the muscles
  • Inflammation of the covering of bones
  • Pain in the joints
  • Fever with an enlarged spleen (in about one-third of patients)
  • Signs of renal failure — excessive thirst, excessive urination, vomiting possible
  • Emaciation
  • Neuralgia
  • Osteolytic lesions

A third of dogs that develop an enlarged spleen and swollen lymph nodes and progress to kidney failure. Many dogs will lose the pigment or dark coloring of these tissues as the Leishmaniasis progresses.

Treatment Options Available

The good thing is that your dog can be treated for Leishmaniasis treated as an outpatient.

However, if your dog is chronically infected or emaciated, you may have to consider euthanizing your dog as  the prognosis isn’t in your dog’s favor in such cases.

If your dog doesn’t have a severe infection, your vet will put him on a high-quality protein diet which may be designed for renal insufficiency.

Keep in mind that the infection is zoonotic in nature.

This means that the human can also get the disease if they are in direct contact with the parasites in the lesions. Leishmaniasis can never be eliminated entirely so, relapse and repeated treatment are inevitable.

There are several excellent medications available on the market. Your vet will guide you to find the right one for your furry friend.


All in All…

Did we go through everything you needed to know?

Leishmaniasis in dogs can result in black fever which is an abdominal organ reaction or a skin reaction. So, proper treatment on time is necessary to ensure your furry friend’s health.

Humans, too, can get Leishmaniasis!

You’ll have to stay cautious when dealing with or to treat your dog this infection.

Do you have questions? Let us know in the commen

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