Canine Leishmaniasis

By Dr. Lars Rahmquist [email protected]

Lars Rahmquist studied veterinary surgery at Sydney University, graduating in 1996 with first class honours. He has worked in a number of fields in veterinary practice, including dairy medicine, equine practice, wildlife work in Nepal and small animal clinics in four different countries. Lars is a practising VIP partner in Lagos.

There is no disease quite as frustrating for a vet as Leish. Once contracted, the disease is considered incurable.

As some readers might be aware, there are medications to help control the severity of the disease, but they have to be given for life.

Leishmaniasis affects all parts of the body and often presents as emaciation of the animal and non-healing skin lesions.

If the disease affects the major organs (especially the kidneys) it causes organ failure and death, even with using the drugs mentioned above.

To be honest, Leish is the reason I very strongly considered not bringing my dog, Norm, with me when I moved to the Algarve. If you love your dog, you should be very aware of Leish!

The only prevention (up till now) has been regimental fly control in the form of medicated collars and spot-ons and to limit the dog’s exposure to sand flies at dusk and dawn.

Now there is a new vaccine for Leish. Portugal is the first country in the world where the vaccine has been made available.

The vaccine targets a protein named QA-21, produced by the Leish organism. This protein has a proven safety profile in human trials, where it is being used in phase III of the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine production.

Vaccine trials found the percentage of non-symptomatic dogs following vaccination and ‘natural exposure’ was 92.7%. For me this is data for a clearly effective vaccine.

Because it is a protein and not the organism itself used in the vaccine production, the safety margin of the vaccine is excellent.

‘Normal’ vaccine reactions such as a transient swelling at the injection site can still occur.

Ask your vet about the new vaccine: CaniLeish. It is licensed for use from six months of age and the initial course is three vaccines, given three weeks apart.

The vaccine is then ‘boostered’ annually throughout the dog’s life. The recommendation is to leave a two-week interval between ‘normal’ vaccinations (for parvo, rabvies, etc) and the CaniLeish vaccination.

Leishmaniasis is a killer and the only non-curable infectious disease we have in Portugal. Thus prevention tactics are extra important.

I have already started Norm on the vaccine course. It is now sand fly season and dog owners need to be aware of this disease and how to prevent against it.

If you are unaware about Leish, please do ask your vet about it.

To contact Dr Lars Rahmquist, please call the VIP veterinary surgery in Lagos on 282 782 282.