Canine Leishmaniasis – How to Protect Your Pet!

Visceral canine leishmaniasis ( LVC ), also called Calazar, is a disease caused by a protozoan of the genus Leishmania that affects dogs, which are considered the main reservoirs in the urban cycle of the disease, through which man can also become infected , thus being classified as a zoonosis.

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LVC is transmitted through the mosquito bite belonging to the phlebotomine family. This vector is popularly known as mosquito-straw, mosquito-powder, birigui or tatuquiras, and is widely distributed in Brazil because it is a tropical climate that allows reproduction.

LVC has been gaining notoriety in recent years because of its rapid and severe growth , coupled with an increase in the number of infected animals and humans.

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Leishmaniasis – How is it transmitted?

LVC is transmitted mainly by the mosquito bite of the protozoan that is in the form of promastigote and this is transmitted to the dog at the moment of the bite. Once inside the organism of the animal, the protozoan will induce a series of reactions on the part of the immune system and, later, a proliferation of the same until the beginning of the clinical signs of the disease.

When the mosquito bites an infected dog and soon after another dog bites or even a human, the transmission of the protozoan and consequently of the LVC occurs (at this stage the protozoa will be in the amastigote form). It is important to emphasize that once the transmission takes place the protozoa will always follow in the animal’s organism .

Leishmaniasis – how to detect?

LVC is a disease that can present numerous clinical signs in the dog, since the action of the protozoan is present in practically all the organs of the body. However there are a number of signs that are more frequent and usually suggest a suspicion of the disease, they are:

  • Periocular alopecia: drop of hairs around the eyes (alopecia in the form of glasses)
  • Alopecia / wound on tip of ear
  • Onychogrifosis (exaggerated nail growth)
  • Severe peeling of the skin
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Increased abdomen volume (due to liver and spleen growth)
  • Apathy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Long-term diarrhea.
  • Lymphadenomegaly (enlargement of lymph nodes)


The diagnosis of LVC should be made exclusively by a Veterinarian, who will take into account the general clinical condition of the animal, along with specific laboratory tests that may indicate the presence or absence of the protozoa in the body.

Leishmaniasis – how to treat?

The treatment of LVC has been much discussed, not only in the veterinary environment, but also in the legal environment, because being a zoonosis this disease in humans is serious as in animals. In addition, if not treated properly, it can lead to death in no time.

The treatment is based on a combination of medications that aims to relieve the symptoms caused by the disease, as well as improving the general condition of the patient. The so-called pentavalent antimonials such as methylglucamine antimoniate, which are drugs that directly affect the protozoan , help in controlling it. It is worth mentioning that for LVC there is only clinical cure, that is, once stipulated the treatment the animal regains its healthy state, but it will always be a carrier of the disease, since there is a treatment capable of totally eliminating the protozoan from the organism.

Leshmaniosis – how to avoid it?

The only way to prevent Leishmaniasis is to avoid the mosquito bite vector of the disease. For this, it is necessary to adopt chemical and management methods, which together will reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Against the mosquito

The application of insecticides with residual action in the areas near residences and kennels, such as deltamethrin and cypermethrin, is indicated every six months. Cleaning of the environment should also be taken, avoiding the accumulation of organic matter and reducing the micro-habitat that is favorable to the mosquito. The placement of thin screens in homes and kennels is also a measure that must be taken in endemic areas. If you also indicate the Citronella planting in the yard or near the residence, this plant exudes an odor that repels the mosquito and has great effectiveness in the prevention.

Directed to dogs

The use of topical insecticides in the form of collars, pipettes or sprays is very effective in protecting the dog from the mosquito, besides being easy to apply and affordable. The use of collars impregnated with deltamethrin (Scalibor ®) has demonstrated good results in combating the transmission of the disease. In addition to topical insecticides, it is recommended in endemic areas that animals should not be exposed and avoid walking at dusk and at night, as these are the mosquitoes’ most active times of transmission.


The prevention of LVC by immunization through specific vaccines is a great preventive aid and has become common in recent times. The LVC vaccine prevents the protozoan from completing its cycle, thus eliminating the course of transmission and consequently the development of clinical signs. Some commercial forms of the vaccine, such as Leishmune®, Leish-Tec® and LiESAp are already available on the market, all with scientific proof of their preventive action.


The euthanasia of dogs infected with LVC is widely discussed and involves issues such as science, ethics and animal welfare. It is now known that euthanasia as a form of control is totally ineffective in the control and prevention of LVC. The treatment, immunization and use of mosquito repellents is the most correct, ethical and effective way to control the disease.

Tip: Access this article and know all the most common diseases in dogs .

This article is purely informative, in we do not have the capacity to prescribe veterinary treatments nor to make any type of diagnosis. We suggest you bring your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or malaise.

If you want to read the description in other articles click here , we recommend that you enter our section on Infectious Diseases .

Emily Harris

Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-p I am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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