Leishmaniasis Warning for Southern Departments

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.

I did not know about dogs until this item came up, but having worked in Northern Brazil where Leishmaniasis is not exactly rare in humans I went for the human research and worked outward from that. All canine/lupine species develop a variant different to human beings, also other primates suffer a variant of the version we do, so what I found out was that sandfly transmission across species is very highly unlikely but since it is possibly an outcome of mutation then not absolutely impossible. Felines, mustelidae (pine martens, etc) and chiroptera (bats) are all vectors but none of them develops Leishmaniasis. It is not contageous and actually the percentage chance of getting it is miniscule but not to be scoffed at.

Orphan drug status is given to a drug that is for a rare disease or one with too few sufferers that would usually make the drug a viable proposton. This means that research is carried out and hopefully cures found for rare or unusual conditions.

Simplest site to look at if you want more infor is:


I have looked at a few of the articles they list at the end. Difficult in most cases but there would appear to be a bit of an increase in some areas so worth making everybody aware without going into 'scare' mode.

Did look it up and was quite concerned about how it had spread, the map showed 1967 to 2007 and it seemed to be comtained around the south coast from the Avignon area to the Italian border now its pretty much Midi Pyrenees and all down the west coast so in 5 years covered a lot of ground but it did say that there could be only one infected animal in each spot, as we have 4 Old English Sheepdogs that are always running around the field and in close contact with the goats perhaps another word with the vet wouldnt go amiss

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.

The vaccination costs 156 plus three office visits - so probably 225 total. The treatment will be 1000 before the maintenance medication. To the best of my knowledge, this dog has never been further South of Gaillac. I think it depends a lot on how often your dog is outside and how often he interacts with other dogs. If we didn't have one dog infected, we would have not worried about the other as he is well contained on our property and mostly inside. From what I have read, the sand flea has a short life span and a short travel distance - about 1M. With that in mind, the dog has to come into close contact with another infected dog.

Our vet in the Tarn has it advertised in his practice when we inquired he thought it not serious enough yet but as it would cost us close to 1000 € to treat our dogs he was perhaps thinking of that but its not like him to turn down money

OK, humans get nasty open ulcers but lucky dogs on that point. It does not make people that ill for quite a long time though, but sounds awful enough. However, best be informed as you thought to do instead of getting a huge shock if it arrives.

He does not have any skin conditions or ulcers at all. However his nose was very cracked and dry. It is beginning to improve now. We are seven shots into the total of 15. Will reports. Thought I was there but must have got it mixed up.

Does he have the ulcers? I have seen it in humans all too often in tropical countries and had no idea there was a canine version and not here at that. I thought it was mainly limited to where the sandflies are found in the Americas.

For humans the treatment for the ulcers is creams containing antimony. It apparently works in such a way that the antimony enters the blood stream and kills the parasite in kidneys and so on, producing some kind of 'orphan drug' (I am not a medic so don't actually know what that is) and recovery begins. I have seen children with their faces totally disformed in Colombia and Brazil who were treated and cured in a couple of months.

Could you repost on the Dogs, Dogs group as well because if this spreads we'll all need to look to our laurels.