A KILLER bug that infects dogs has been reported in the UK – prompting vets to warn owners to be on the look out for signs in their pets.
It comes after a pooch in Hertfordshire died after catching the bug.
First case caught in the UK
Leishmaniosis is carried by female sand flies and transmitted by its bite.
It’s typically picked up by dogs after being bitten or wounded by another infected dog.
But up until to now, it’s not be reported in the UK though is common in Europe.
Though leishmaniosis can infect humans it is not directly passed from dog to human, and so you can’t become infected from your dog.
Rather the transmission is via sand flies, not currently found in the UK.
Vets are now sounding the alarm after the death of a three-year-old shih tzu cross – warning all dog owners to be alert to the signs in their pet.
The dog had been with his owners since he was a puppy, and showed none of the known symptoms of the bug.
He was diagnosed with leichmaniosis, and vets suspect dog-to-dog transmission is the most likely explanation for him falling sick.
Another pooch put down after catching bug in Spain
Another dog in the household had been imported from Spain, and had to be put down six months earlier after developing severe leishmaniosis.
Writing in the BMJ, a team of vets said: “To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first reported case of leishmaniosis in the UK in a dog without a history of travel to an endemic area.”
They added all dog owners must be aware of the bug, and the signs their dog could have it.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first reported case of leishmaniosis in the UK in a dog without a history of travel to an endemic area
British Veterinary Association
“In an era of increased foreign travel of dogs and increased importation of dogs to the UK, it is likely that the number of dogs seropositive for L infantum will continue to increase,” they said.
“Leishmania-infected dogs may present an infection risk to other dogs, even in the absence of natural vectors, as direct transmission between dogs is possible.”
Since the first case, the authors warn another dog – a fully vaccinated English pointer – has also been diagnosed with the infection, in a different part of the UK.
The dog had never travelled outside of the UK, or beyond the borders of Essex, where it lived.
But its owners had lived in Spain and travelled to the Jalón Valley (between Alicante and Valencia) without their pet in the summer of 2018.
Unlike the first case, this dog was not living, or in regular contact with another infected dog, and it may be that infected sand flies were inadvertently brought back in the owners’ transport, luggage, or clothing, suggest the authors.
Parasite can infect humans
In humans there are three types of leishmaniasis, though it is rare in this part of the world, according to the World Health Organisation.
The most lethal is visceral leishmaniasis, which is fatal in 95 per cent of cases and causes bouts of fever, weight loss and anaemia.
Most cases happen in Brazil, East Africa and South East Asia.
Meanwhile the most common form in humans is cutaneous leishmaniasis and causes skin lesions and ulcers.
CL is most prevalent in the Americas, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Owners must not be complacent
The first case reported in a dog in the UK “serves as a reminder that we should not be complacent about the risk of Leishmania infantum establishing in the UK, even in the current absence of the sand fly vector”.
Junior vice president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Daniella Dos Santos, said: “The increase in cases of non-endemic diseases such as leishmaniasis is extremely concerning, with more than a quarter of vets surveyed by BVA last year mentioning seeing cases of this rare disease in practice.
Signs your pooch is infected
SIGNS of leishmaniosis in dogs include:
- severe weight loss
- loss of appetite
- tarry faeces
- nose bleeds
- exercise intolerance
- scaling on the skin
- nodules on the skin surface
- long or brittle nails
- painful joints
- signs of renal failure – excessive peeing, thirst and vomiting
“Leishmaniasis is mainly associated with pets who have recently travelled outside of the UK or ‘trojan’ rescue dogs from abroad with unknown health histories, which is why we have called on the government to strengthen existing pet travel legislation and its enforcement for the sake of animal and human health in the UK.”
She advises pet owners planning on overseas travel with their dog to seek advice from a vet first, while those who already own an imported rescue dog, should contact their local vet for advice on testing and treatment for any underlying conditions.
“Anyone looking to get a dog should consider adopting from a UK rehoming charity or welfare organisation instead of rescuing from abroad,” she recommends, “as the unintended consequences from trojan dogs can be severe for the health and welfare of UK’s pets and, in some cases, humans too.”