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Leishmaniasis – All You Need To Know

What is Leishmaniasis and what is the cause?

  • a disease caused by a protozoan parasite names Leishmania
  • transmission is by vector, an infected sandfly
  • the disease can have several forms, but most common forms affect the skin or the internal organs

Where does Leishmania occur?

  • many countries of the world (Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, China, the Middle East, India, and the Caribbean)
  • cases in the U.S. are rare and typically occur in individuals returning where the disease is more common and have sand flies 
  • infected sand flies have been reported in southern Texas
  • leishmaniasis has been reported in 21 states and Canada

What animals can get Leishmaniasis?

  • dogs, coyotes, foxes and rodents can get infected and harbor the parasite
  • cats and horses can occasionally get infected

How can my animal get infected?

How does the disease affect my animal?

  • the skin form of leishmaniasis develops as a non-itchy, dry, flaky and hairless areas on the muzzle, around the eyes, ears and/or on the feet
  • lesions may start on the footpads (hard pad disease)
  • other symptoms may be fever, loss of energy and appetite, loss of weight and exercise intolerance

Leishmaniasis infographic

Can I get infected by Leishmaniasis?

  • yes, but not with a contact with an infected animal
  • transmission of the disease occur from a bite of an infected sandfly (vector disease)
  • your animal can serve as a reservoir (source of the parasite for the sandflies)
  • most people get infected by traveling to areas where the disease is common 
  • symptoms may take months to develop and may affect the skin or the internal organs 
  • skin symptoms start with itchy, raised bumps which usually ulcerate and scab
  • skin lesions may leave permanent scars
  • when the internal organs are involved, it can affect the liver, spleen and may cause changes to the blood
  • if not treated may cause death 

Who to contact if you suspect Leishmaniasis?

  • for you animal – contact your veterinarian 
  • for you or a friend – contact a physician 

How to protect my pet from Leishmniasis?

  • dogs living in areas with sandflies should be kept indoors from dusk till dawn (when the insects are most active)
  • spot-on protection against sandflies

How to protect myself from Leishmaniasis?

  • if travelling to areas where sandflies live, limit your outdoor activities from dusk till dawn
  • if you must be outside, wear long sleeves and pants
  • use insect repellents that contain DEET

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