It sounds like a scene from a horror film: tiny little parasites that literally eat their host from the inside out, without the host being able to stop the little monsters from doing so. But here we are not talking about a creepy fantasy creature but rather about a very real parasite infestation: leishmaniasis.
Leishmaniasis – a tropical disease when traveling
Leishmaniasis was long considered a purely tropical disease. It can occur in many different mammals, including humans. Most cases in this country occur in domestic dogs. The tiny Leishmania is transmitted through the bite of the sandfly, which has long been considered an insect of the tropics. However, this mosquito is now also spreading in the Mediterranean region – and with it Leishmania. This is one reason why leishmaniasis is often incorrectly associated with animal welfare abroad. But the sandfly and its pathogens are on the rise: specimens of the sandfly have already been caught in Germany, which prove that leishmaniasis has long since arrived in our regions.
Typical leishmaniasis symptoms and course of the disease
The Leishmania themselves are tiny pathogens that, as soon as they have penetrated the body through the bite, begin to destroy the cells of their host. They multiply in the cells and then attack them from the inside. They are primarily concerned with the animal’s immune defense, so that as the disease progresses, diffuse immune defense reactions occur: non-specific inflammation, ulcers and cell degeneration are typical symptoms. Diarrhea, seemingly causeless lameness and loss of appetite are also other signs of illness in the initial phase.
While the skin is usually initially affected, the symptoms spread over time until the entire body is affected and internal organs also suffer increased damage. The reactions are so confusing that it can lead to liver inflammation, kidney failure, bone marrow inflammation, nerve inflammation and many other diseases that are not only extremely painful but can also be fatal. In fact, in the long term, leishmaniasis is almost always fatal because there is still no cure for Leishmania infection.
Therapy and treatment options
Since, as already mentioned, there is currently no complete cure for animals suffering from leishmaniasis, most therapeutic approaches rely on relieving the symptoms, stopping the spread of leishmania in the body, and strengthening the body’s own defenses (here can we recommend DOG FIT by PreThis VITAL immune for a strengthened immune system).</ p>
If the disease is noticed in time, the veterinarian can administer various pharmaceutical agents depending on tolerability, which, if taken consistently, prevent the leishmania from spreading further in the body and infecting other organs and areas of the body. This means that even a sick dog can lead a normal life with the parasites. No further precautionary measures need to be taken here, especially since infection through dog-to-dog contact is almost impossible in the early stages. However, in the case of leishmaniasis, veterinary care is always essential in order to keep the disease under control and prevent painful symptoms in the animal for as long as possible.
Foreign dogs and leishmaniasis
Since the spread of the sandfly is currently leading to an almost epidemic spread of leishmaniasis cases, especially in the Mediterranean region, the disease is often associated with animal protection abroad. Some ignorant people turn up their noses at the fact that sick animals enter the country and carry the pathogens. Of course, every responsible animal welfare organization should test their dogs (and of course cats) in advance for various diseases and of course for leishmaniasis – however, there is no risk to the domestic animal population. Leishmania actually spreads almost exclusively through the bite of an infected sandfly; direct transmission from dog to dog is usually impossible. However, especially in open skin lesions that occur in the late stages, there are many active pathogens that can be introduced directly into the bloodstream (for example by ofOpen wounds) can also cause infections.
The increasing spread of the sand fly is much more problematic: Even if only a few sand flies are currently being discovered in our latitudes, given the current climate development, it is still questionable how an insect from the tropics can become native to this country. Because vaccination against the pathogen is still not possible – the only effective protection against leishmaniasis is to protect yourself and your animal from the bite by insect repellent. In this context, it is also strongly advised not to take a healthy dog with you if your vacation is to be spent in a leishmaniasis area with a strong sandfly population.
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