There is a danger for dogs in hot countries,especially the Mediterranean ones such as southern Spain, that I’m going to talk about here comes in the form of a tiny mosquito that flies only after sundown and before dusk, is harmless to human beings and most other animals. It is potentially lethal to dogs.
The mosquito, whose proper name is the Phlebotom mosquitoe, is often referred to as the sandfly mosquito and the disease it passes on to dogs is called Leishmaniasis, commonly referred to as sandfly disease. If it’s not treated by a vet your dog will die. Worse news is that in southern Spain, where I live near the coast, there is a 35% chance of a dog catching the disease.
Leishmaniasis acts in a similar way in dogs as AIDS does in humans. It breaks down the dog’s immune system so that he has no defence against otherwise harmless diseases. Once contracted, a dog with Leishmaniasis will usually begin to deteriorate slowly over a period of a few weeks,when more fur than usual will fall out, the paws will enlarge and bleed, the claws will grow at an unnatural rate and the dog will be less inclined to want to eat, but will often drink more than usual.
Once the disease has taken a firm hold and in the absence of any medication, the dog’s health will start to deteriorate more rapidly, losing weight and becoming listless until finally losing interest in anything much and sleeping for unnaturally long periods. Ultimately, he will go to sleep and not wake up.
If you can catch it quickly enough and get a vet to confirm Leishmaniasis, a series of medications can be given which may prolong your dogs life by several years. However, the medication is expensive and if you are already on a tight budget and especially so nowadays in the wake of the economic problems, this can become a painful dilemma for owners. There is a new treatment called Milteforan which is now available and is given daily on food for 28 days. It is more effective than Glucantime, you can administer it yourself and it has no side effects on the liver or kidneys. After 28 days continue treatment with with Alopurinol for a few months just to be sure and then hopefully no further treatment.
There are some things you can do to prevent your dog contracting Leishmaniasis. Fitting your dog with a Scalibor collar against ticks and fleas will also help to deter the mosquito, although it is not a guaranteed repellent. Keeping him indoors after the sun has set will reduce the risk and having mosquito netting fitted on all your home’s windows and openings is another good measure of prevention. If your dog needs to go outside after dark, make sure it is only brief.
There is nothing you can do to be completely sure of preventing your dog contracting this horrible disease, but taking the above preventative measures will give him the best chances of remaining free of the disease. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leishmaniasis for more details on this disease.