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Protect Your Dog from Canine Leishmaniasis: Virbac Releases CaniLeash Vaccine

The development of a canine leishmaniasis vaccine has been part of a research project spanning 20 years. Vetstream reports that finally an effective vaccine has been found.

CaniLeash, developed by Virbac, is a proven, effective vaccination for dogs against leishmaniasis. A 93% success rate over a two year period has been achieved in the trials.

This is great news for dog owners where there is a risk, such as South America, and more recently North America, as there is no effective cure. A vaccine as effective as CaniLeash will result in far fewer cases of the disease as long as owners are willing to get their dogs inoculated and current reservoirs of the disease are controlled.

What is Canine Leishmaniasis?

Canine Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease caused by the bite of an infected sand fly. There is also evidence to support that the disease can also be transmitted from dog to dog via body fluids such as blood, for example during a transfusion from an infected dog.

The primary parasite responsible is Leishmania infantum, and can cause a number of problems in a canine host. Lesions can develop in numerous parts of the body and the immune system will go in to overdrive in an attempt to fight off the parasite. This can cause numerous inflammatory problems such as a type of self-induced arthritis. Kidney failure can also occur, which is the predominant cause of leishmaniasis-related deaths.

The parasite can result in unsightly skin lesions that are one of the main characteristics of the disease. These lesions can also be very painful.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Leishmaniasis?

Symptoms include:

  • Predominant skin lesions
  • Hair loss
  • Dermatitis (Inflammation of the skin)
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Increased urination and drinking (associated with kidney failure)
  • Tiredness
  • Arthritic joints
  • Diarrhoea

Do I Need to Worry About Canine Leishmaniasis?

Canine Leishmaniasis was traditionally a problem throughout areas of the Mediterranean, South America and Africa, however, it is becoming an increasing problem in parts of North America and Europe. Fortunately in the UK, risk is very low.

There is evidence to suggest that some breeds are more likely to become infected by the parasite than others, including the Foxhound, Neopolitian Mastiff, German Shepherd and Doberman Pinscher.

Because the disease is primarily spread through Sandflies, insecticides have previously been used to keep the flies at bay. Collars impregnated with insecticides can be used to fairly good effect.

Care should be taken when travelling with your dog through areas associated with the disease.

The release of this new vaccine is therefore great news for those living or travelling in/to infected areas.

Your Thoughts

Infected dogs face a life long battle against the parasite as even if symptoms clear, there is always the possibility of a relapse. If you own with a dog currently living with leishmaniasis we’d like to know how you are getting on, what treatments you have used or tried and how they get on with their daily lives. Please, let us know in the comments below.

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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  1. We have had several dogs with leishmaniasis in Spain,and use Glucantime injections daily for a month followed by oral Allopurinol-this latter drug is cheap-100mg daily for big terrier.
    Our old black Labrador was skinny and grey and the vet didnt recognise her breed,but after treatment she recovered and went on to 15yr+.
    One dog died quickly a week after giving birth to healthy pups though one has had the disease,am not sure if it was maternal transmission ?
    We now give the vaccine,and watch the dogs for signs and symptons.

  2. I have 2 dogs who were diagnosed with Leishmaniasis when we lived in Spain nearly 3 years ago. We now live in the UK. They are on Alopurinol tablets daily for life. One of our dogs is fine but the other experiences severe nose bleeds periodically; sometimes up to 6 times in a day. I would like to know if this new vaccine CaniLeish can be administered to dogs that already have the disease or is the vaccine a preventative? I would be most grateful to be enlightened on the subject. Many thanks. Tina 07-07-13

    • Hi Tina, vaccines work by having small amounts of weakened virus in them. The body reacts by producing antibodies to this weakened virus, which can then be utilised should the individual ever become infected with the actual virus.

      Unfortunately this means that vaccines, including Canileash, in general will not ease the burden of an already infected individual.

      I hope that helps.


  3. I am considering having my 14 month old German Shepherd vaccinated with Canileash but am concerned about the side effects. This dog reacted badly to LeichGuard unfortunately and doesn’t seem to tolerate several other medications – he either vomits or has diahorrea. If he does have a reaction, is there an antidote that can be administered?

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