Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a disease of the blood caused by a protozoan parasite transmitted by the bite of a sandfly. Symptoms are of two types: Cutaneous (affecting the skin) and Visceral (affecting the abdominal organs).


Infected dogs will often show signs of both types of symptoms: almost invariably dogs will have some visceral damage – notably renal (kidney), but also liver and spleen issues, whilst up to 90% of infected dogs will also have skin problems resulting in lesions and hair loss. Joints and eyes are also often affected.


Signs to watch out for include: 

Visceral signs: weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nose bleeds.

Cutaneous signs: long and/or brittle nails,hair loss or brittle hair, thickening or depigmentation of the skin, nodules on the skin.

Other associated signs: lymphadenopathy (disease of the lymph nodes), bone lesions, joint pain, neuralgia (nerve pain), excessive thirst and/or urination, fever.


Once infected with leishmaniasis, the dog cannot be ‘cured’ but symptoms can be alleviated or prevented through medication.Diagnosis is relatively simple by blood testing. Leishmaniasis is found throughout Spain and Portugal. The sand flies hibernate from October to May and are most prolific in August and September. They are not found in beach areas, but rather areas of soft soil and rich vegetation.


Prevention of infection:
Collars impregnated with the insecticide deltamethrin are readily available for purchase in veterinary clinics throughout Mallorca. The insecticide is insoluble in water but is absorbed by naturally secreted skin oils. Some dogs have an allergic reaction to the insecticide, resulting in skin rashes, hair loss and, in worst cases, convulsions. Remove the collar immediately if you suspect an adverse reaction and seek veterinary advice.

Vaccination against Leishmaniasis is also available and manufacturers record that it is over 90% effective. The vaccination consists of 3 initial injections over 3 months and a yearly booster. Some transitory adverse reactions at the time of the injections have been noted including lethargy and joint pain.

Other measures: Keep the dog away from the sandflies by bringing him inside at dawn and dusk or using mosquito netting in his kennel area. Usage of a combination of these preventative measures is recommended.


Dogs for U is often the last hope for the German Shepherds and Huskies in Mallorca.  No matter how big her heart, Cornelia cannot take them all and we grieve for those we cannot save. We need your help to save these dogs. Please donate or volunteer – the smallest kindness is much appreciated.