Canine Leishmaniasis in the Southern Departments - Repost from General

Hello all, I just wanted to make everyone aware of a debilitating parasitic canine disease called Leishmaniasis which is rare but becoming more common in the Southern Departments of France. I am located in the Tarn and adopted a dog from a village about an hour North in late November. The poor pup has been sick since the day we got him. He arrived very skinny and has suffered from seizures, frequent nose bleeds, painful joints, and general lethargy. He has been to the vet numerous times and has been on a number of medications while we tried to find a cause. A few weeks ago, he woke up unable to urinate. We rushed him to an emergency vet where they diagnosed him with Leishmaniasis. They said a few more days and he would have been dead.

It is still very 'touch and go'. We must give him shots every two days for a month and have his kidneys tested regularly in hopes that they haven't been too damaged. The shorts do not cure, only supress the disease. After that he must take daily medication to control it and there is serious risk of reocurrance. The shots make him listless and are currently aggravating the symptoms.

Leishmaniasis is spread by the bite of a sand flea and can be spread to other dogs or to humans (with lesser consequences). Luckily our other dog has tested fine and is now receiving the vaccination. The vaccination has only been available for about a year. It must be done over three courses and is expensive.

If you are in the Southern Departments, please ask your veterinarian about this.

Oh good, after the news of this terrible infliction entering my world just a few days ago I got a bit black about it, but good news is uplifting. With you all the way.

That's so good to hear Donna, good for Diamon. He's fighting back. And good news about Varitek as well - at least that's one less worry. Fingers crossed about the visa situation. You've got enough on your plate right now but I'm hoping the good news about your buddies will lift your spirits a little.

Hi all, just wanted to provide an update. Diamon went for his mid-point check up today and is progressing. His kidneys tested fine and the vet was optimistic about his progress. His energy level has increased dramatically and you can tell his aching joints have improved. He is still having nose bleeds fairly regularly, but the vet says that should improve. Hoping so as I feel like I do laundry daily! We have seven more shots to go. Also dog #2, Varitek, has tested negative and has begun his three-shot vaccination. I'm trying to be optimisitic as we've been getting other bad news (Visa denials) and I'd just like for something to go right!

Saw the phew. At least one bit of good news. I looked at the Cornell connections and a UK university ID gets me nowhere with any of them.

I can go to the Medline library through my university library membership. Because I have seen it in humans fairly often and knew nothing about dogs until now (which as a dog owner got me going) but already knew it was carried by bats via the sandflys, I looked for other vectors. As said, there is not much available and also in other species is far less common anyway. In theory, because there is a handful, we should worry about wolves as well, certainly foxes and possibly mustelidae because of their habitats and common diseases with canines/lupines. Not worth having a large scale panic, but at least carefully hinting that cats, rodents and other creatures could also be vectors, so caution. Phlebotomes are a serious problem in a lot of the world. With the increase of migration and travel, environmental/climate change and globalisation, there is an increased risk of the introduction and spread of infections by Leishmania species such as Leishmani tropica or donovani in Europe and in the newly emerged Leishmania hybrids. In short, it just needs a single container as is the case of the Asian hornets that arrived in Bordeaux a handful of years ago. Without trying to be clever enough to understand scientific papers, and then mostly abstracts of them since I do not have full access, I get the picture that it is vets who need reskilling almost by the year.

As for the horses. I did not see anything mentioning equines at all, so for that perhaps we should be thankful.

Thanks Julie, immunodeprived in the case of humans means that somebody very ill, for instance pneumonia, many cancers, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses is susceptible - which is exactly as it in Latin America. So not quite as 'casual' as it is expressed here. They are avoiding mention of other domestic animals and others such as rodents who live near humans/dogs though, which is not helpful. But then almost nothing does. A couple of the scientific papers look at species crossover which means to me that if a dog gets ill, have cats looked at, do what can be done to get rid of mice, rats and other vermin or other soures of transmission. Careful about bats though, in general nearly all are protected species in France. Otherwise very useful article.

Thanks, Julie. I understand, but the information on Google is so conflicting and frightening. I've read people with the same treatment who have professed it to be a miracle and their dogs have lived after for many years; and some who have said the opposite. I have to trust the vet and hope for the best as I saw the poor boy at the edge of completely shutting down. They tested his kidneys before and will do so again at the mid-point. It looks like he might be positively progressing. I must have hope as the alternative is unthinkable.


Earliest reports of Leishmaniasis are around 1962 in France, close to the Italian border and only the visceral kind. John Alcock has just posted mentioning 1968 and I found mentioned Spain in 1978/79 in a Spanish article from 1982 mentioned already. It does not say where though, so the actual distance is another question there. I cannot find anything about Italy so may ask OH to search for me. Just with Spain, it suggests the rate of spread is steady rather than fast but it does not appear to have moved very much northward - at least in proportion. It is, nonetheless, found in northern Europe and migratory birds are the suggested probable source of transmission.

Reposting from General Discussions:

Careful about 'another infected dog'. I did a proper (e.g. not Wikipedia) search and saw that the transmission is by a sandfly not sandflea, so by a winged insect. Its normal food source is bats and mostly the sandflies live in the caves bats inhabit, but around 30 other animal species have been identified as carriers. These include humans, birds, cats, mice and other creatures who are always very close to us. So as far as flea infection goes, also if a single flea moves between animals which can also mean species, indirect transmission from one species to another is also cause for concern - including ourselves. However the chance of transmission that way is less likely. You are raising a very important issue anyway, but now we to keep and eye on our cats, ourselves and other species. It looks like this is, like frelons asiatique and termites, an accidental import that has the potential to spread. I suspect it must also be present in other southern European countries and that veterinary practicioners are going to have to learn quite a bit. It is a real cause for concern and the more we all know the better. Thanks Donna and John, important information.

I reposted because it fits in with Valerie's detailed rundown of the two types. I am still looking as I write and see that it has been reported in Spain back to the late 1970s. The visceral kind is most common but skin (cutaneous) type does happen as well. It has often been identified as a psoriatic skin complaint and wrongly treated until neuralgia or internal organ infections occur. However, the sandfly does not appear to thrive in cold weather/climates so there may be a geographical limit of its extent here in Europe.

Hi Valerie, I think it's also important to know the symptoms as its new in the area. Our vet did not recognize it in a number of visits. There are many stories of dogs who have lived with this disease, but it is debilitating and expensive. If you are in the Southern regions and your dogs interact with other dogs, I would recommend the vaccine. It is expensive - about 225 for all three doses; but the treatment will run well over 1,000 plus maintenance medication.

Donna, very many thanks for posting on this. Apparently after the initial infection, there may no visible symptoms for anything between one month and several years, by which time it may be too late to treat and euthanasia recommended.

I'm attaching a list of possible symptoms just as a reference point in case our dog owners notice anything out of the ordinary. Of course, it will up to your vet to carry out blood tests etc to confirm the presence of the parasite but it may increase the chances of catching it in the early stages.

Symptoms and Types

There are two types of leishmaniasis seen in dogs: visceral and cutaneous. Each type affect different parts of the dog's body.

Visceral — affects organs of the abdominal cavity

  • Severe weight loss
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Diarrhea
  • Tarry feces (less common)
  • Vomiting
  • Nose bleed
  • Exercise intolerance

Cutaneous — affects the skin

  • Hyperkeratosis — most prominent finding; excessive epidermal scaling with thickening, depigmentation (loss of skin color), and chapping of the muzzle and footpads
  • Alopecia — dry, brittle hair coat with symmetrical hair loss
  • Nodules usually develop on the skin surface
  • Intradermal nodules and ulcers may be seen
  • Abnormally long or brittle nails are a specific finding in some patients

Other signs and symptoms associated with leishmaniasis include:

  • Lymphadenopathy — disease of the lymph nodes with skin lesions in 90 percent of cases
  • Emaciation
  • Signs of renal failure — excessive urination, excessive thirst, vomiting possible
  • Neuralgia — painful disorder of the nerves
  • Pain in the joints
  • Inflammation of the muscles
  • Osteolytic lesions — a "punched-out" area with severe bone loss
  • Inflammation of the covering of bones; rare
  • Fever with an enlarged spleen (in about one-third of patients)