Leishmaniosis Alert



First EU Developed Vaccine Available for Disease Affecting ‘Travelling Dogs’

The first EU developed vaccine to provide protection against leishmaniosis, an incurable and often fatal disease, which presents a particular threat to UK dogs travelling abroad has been launched by Virbac Animal Health.

Leishmaniosis is spread to dogs through the bites of infected sandflies.  It is endemic in countries in southern Europe bordering the Mediterranean, where 2.5 million dogs are already believed to be infected* with the parasite and the disease is spreading northwards as more people travel with their dogs or import infected animals from endemic areas.**

Symptoms of the disease include skin lesions, fur loss, dermatitis, swollen glands, weight loss, nose bleeds and kidney failure.  All breeds are susceptible but Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers and German Shepherds are at particular risk of developing symptoms.

While some treatments are available to manage the symptoms, none can cure the disease.  Dogs that are infected may die, may clear the infection or remain infected without symptoms.  Symptomless dogs can still transmit the infection to other dogs.

Leishmaniosis also affects people and is known as leishmaniasis in its human form.  An outbreak has recently been reported in Madrid, Spain.

Developing a vaccine has proved challenging because of the complexity of the Leishmania parasite, meaning that the only prevention methods available to owners have been to avoid sandflies at dawn and dusk and to use insecticide sprays, spot-ons and collars on their dogs.  This new vaccine has been developed as a result of 20 years’ research and collaboration between scientists at the Institute de Recherche pour le Développement, a French public research institute, animal health company Virbac and its subsidiary company Bio Véto Test.

To be protected, dogs must be given three injections at three week intervals.  The vaccine can be given from six months of age and an annual re-vaccination is then required to maintain immunity.

Virbac Product Manager Simon Boulton BVetMed (Hons) MRCVS explains:  “With pet travel regulations relaxing and more owners taking their dogs abroad, the availability of a vaccine against leishmaniosis is good news.

The disease is present in many popular holiday areas, including the Mediterranean Basin.  It can cause great suffering to dogs and can be fatal.  While it hasn’t so far been viewed as a major threat in the UK, the fact that more dogs are travelling abroad, combined with the spread of the sandfly into more northern regions of Europe, make it a risk we can no longer ignore.

Vaccinating dogs travelling to endemic regions is a simple and effective way for owners to protect their animals and give them peace of mind on holiday.  It will also help to slow the disease’s spread into non-endemic regions.”

For further information on protecting your dog against leishmaniosis, please consult your veterinary surgeon.

* Baneth G, KoutinasAF, Solano-Gallego L, et al. Canine leishmaniosis: new concepts and insights on an expanding zoonosis: part one. Trends Parasitology 2008; 24: 324–330.    Moreno J, Alvar J. Canine leishmaniasis: epidemiological risk and the experimental model. Trends Parasitol, 2002; 18 (9):399–405

**Shaw SE, Lerga Al, Williams S, et al.  Review of exotic infectious diseases in small animals entering the United Kingdom from aboard diagnosed by PCR.  Vet. Rec. 2003: 152: 176-77



Date: 16 April 2012

Issued by/further information from:

Rebecca George

George PR


Tel: 01449 737281/07974 161108

E-mail: rebecca@georgepr.com