#Doggy Travels - Leishmaniasis
Before I lived in Spain I had never heard of Canine Leishmaniasis, which is very prevalent over there in dogs. It is a nasty disease for dogs, caused by the bite of sandflies (phlebotomist pernicious), which I always imagine to be just a smaller version of a mosquito, but they will do far more damage to a dog than a mosquito will do to a human. Sounds delightful doesn't it? This disease in dogs was first identified in Europe in 1903 and traditionally thought of as only found in the countries in the Mediterranean basin, as the sandflies like warm, hot climates. However, it has now spread further than that and many cases are found all over Spain, France and Italy every year. It is also surviving through the colder months and at higher altitudes, so its spread is increasing every year. Cases have also been reported in America, South America and also Asia.
The good news is that the scientists believe it cannot be transmitted from dog to dog, only via the sandfly. A few cases have been reported in the USA where it has been transmitted by canine to canine but this was by direct blood contamination only.
The symptoms of Leishmaniasis are: alopecia, skin lesions, ulcerative or exfoliative dermatitis, nose bleeds, kidney failure, loss of weight, decreased appetite and swollen lymph nodes. Obviously none of these are pleasant and the dog can be very poorly with this disease, but as modern medicine has improved over the years, providing it has not been left too long untreated in the dog it can now be managed with medication, not cured just managed, but of course it is a costly ongoing care plan. However, if the dog is left untreated, it can and will prove fatal.
Obviously prevention is far better than a cure but no effective vaccine exists. The thing that provides the highest percentage for prevention is a simple plastic collar called a Scalibor collar. It is just a thin white collar that sits underneath the dogs normal collar, next to the dogs skin. The collar is impregnated with a chemical called Deltamethrin and the excipients triphenyl phosphate that permits the insecticide to be slowly released into the liquid of the dogs skin, thereby providing a barrier over the complete body of the dog. Yes I know it's a chemical and I don't always agree with using chemicals but I think in this case, this really is the best thing to do. I have seen dogs that have the latter stages of the disease and it is not a pretty sight. The collar will last between 5-6 months and can also be used to prevent ticks. To be on the safe side when we lived in Spain I would change the collar every 4-5 months, making sure the dogs wore them 365 days a year, just to be sure!
As I said above, sandflies do appear to becoming hardier and hardier to colder climates and that fact alone is very worrying, although no cases have been reported in the UK yet, it could just be matter of time before it does appear on this side of the channel, so I believe it is good to be aware of what is happening on the continent and of the different medication available. But for now, it hasn't arrived here and we have two very excited dogs looking forward to their holibobs. So we just need to order two of the Scalibor collars here in the UK from one of the many pet medication companies, they are not on prescription and very easy to get hold of, so we can pop them on Cocoa and Luca before we leave here, in readiness for crossing that border!