Vigilance urged after first UK case of leishmaniosis caught from another dog

Veterinary Nursing News

Vigilance urged after first UK case of leishmaniosis caught from another dog

The Royal Veterinary College reports that one of its Internal Medicine Clinical Training Residents, Myles McKenna, has been involved in diagnosing the first case of leishmaniosis in the UK where it is believed the infection was spread from one dog to another.

Leishmaniosis is caused by the parasite Leishmania infantum, which is endemic in some areas of Europe, but not in the UK. The patient in this case had not travelled outside the UK.

In endemic areas, the infection is carried by female sand-flies and spread through sand-fly bites. Transmission has also been reported via dog bites from an infected dog and infected blood transfusions, although the RVC says these routes have not been reported in the UK before.

Dogs with Leishmaniosis display a range of signs that can take months to years to develop after initial infection. Typical signs include:

  • Weight loss

  • Lack of energy or enthusiasm 

  • Increased thirst and increased urination 

  • Changes to the skin (particularly around the eyes, ears and feet)

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea 

  • Lameness due to joint pain 

  • Sudden nose bleeds 

  • Soreness around the eyes 

Treatment is available for dogs with leishmaniosis, but infection is difficult to clear and long-term medication is therefore frequently needed. Leishmaniosis can be zoonotic - meaning it can be passed to people in rare situations.

Apparently there is another leishmaniosis case reported in the Veterinary Record this week, this time where the dog was suspected of contracting the disease via sand-flies unintentionally brought back in its owners' luggage following a trip to Spain.

Myles McKenna said: "It is important to take note of this first reported case of likely dog-to-dog transmission of Leishmania infantum in the UK. Historically we had considered this to be a condition affecting dogs with a travel history to areas where Leishmania infantum is endemic. Dog-to-dog transmission in non-endemic areas has previously been reported, for example in the USA, but this case serves as a reminder to UK veterinary surgeons that we must be vigilant for conditions such as Leishmania in non-travelled dogs and that alternative transmission mechanisms do exist."

Photo: Bone marrow cytology showing macrophages with numerous intracellular organisms consistent with Leishmania species amastigotes. Credit Charalampos Attipa

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  • maybe now people will think before they bring  known Leish positive dogs into the country for rehoming