Living with a Dog with Leishmaniasis

The diagnosis of “leishmaniasis” is widespread among dogs from the Mediterranean area. It is a disease that, if left untreated, inevitably leads to a painful death within a few years for dogs. However, if the disease is identified and treated, they can lead a long and happy life. Adopting a dog with leishmaniasis is primarily a decision of the heart – and it can be just that! With known disease, effective treatment is easily possible and not very expensive.

What exactly is leishmaniasis?

Leishmaniasis is a potentially severe disease caused by parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania, usually transmitted through the bite of infected sand flies. Mainly dogs are affected, but sometimes other animals and even humans can contract the disease. Once bitten, the parasites enter the dog’s cells and multiply there, leading to a systemic infection. The infection can also occur through other means, such as from mother to puppies, though this is rare. Advanced leishmaniasis in dogs presents unmistakable and severe symptoms, especially skin changes such as hair loss, scaling, skin ulcers, and thickening of the skin. Other more general symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, lameness, joint pain, kidney damage, and eye problems. However, a veterinarian can diagnose leishmaniasis conclusively, taking the first step towards a happy continuation of life. A dog diagnosed and treated in time can easily reach a normal, breed-specific age.

What can be done?

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, medical treatment is absolutely necessary. Numerous coordinated medications are used to fight the proliferation of the parasite and get it under control as comprehensively as possible. At Laiza Strays, we are transparent: of course, we also have dogs with leishmaniasis, who are just starting this treatment. The treatment costs can amount to several hundred euros depending on the stage of the disease. Our goal is to place dogs when they are in a stable health condition. If you fall in love with one of our dogs and he is undergoing treatment, we will of course continue to accompany the dog through his medical treatment until you can take him over. In that case, we ask for the reimbursement of the actual treatment costs incurred by us. We naturally do not charge an additional protection fee.

What costs can I expect?

A dog with leishmaniasis, who is medically well-managed, requires a bit more medical care. A leishmaniasis test and a complete blood count should be performed once a year. Both tests together cost less than 150 €, based on costs for veterinarians in Germany. In addition, the dog needs some ongoing medication, which costs between 10 and 20 euros per month depending on the size of the dog.

To be clear: In case of a leishmaniasis flare-up, additional treatment costs and medications may be required, which are not exorbitantly high but can cost up to 500 €.

What should I consider in terms of diet?

It is essential that the dog food is low in purines. This is somewhat special and not usually found in the low-price range. However, if you are already choosing a high-quality dog food, the price difference between normal and low-purine food is hardly noticeable. Low-purine food is easy to identify as it is usually marked accordingly.

What else should I consider?

There are a few basic rules to follow when dealing with dogs suffering from leishmaniasis, which doctors and veterinarians would likely advise for healthy animals as well. A sick dog can be kept as an only dog. In that case, you don’t have to worry about the animals infecting each other at home. If there is another dog, they should eat from separate bowls – and the healthy dog should definitely be vaccinated against leishmaniasis. If you are unsure or suffer from pre-existing conditions yourself, it is best to consult with your doctor and veterinarian.