Summer danger

  • Leishmaniasis can be fatal to dogs and is especially prevalent in warmer climates

It looks like summer is just around the corner and after a dodgy spring with more than enough rain, we are all looking forward to it. However, every coin has a flip side and summer is no exception.

Over the many years the Pet Care column has appeared, Erny and I have frequently written about leishmaniasis and the danger it is to our dogs. I was therefore surprised to be having a chat with a dog owner from Mijas Costa who told me that he had never heard of the condition until his dog caught it and died as a result.

The simple fact is that leishmaniasis especially exists in warm climates as it is transmitted by the sandfly mosquito. It is an immunosuppressive disease which means it lowers the dog's ability to fight off conditions which can be fatal.

There is no cure. To make a direct analogy it means that your dog is like a country with no armed forces. It becomes liable to attack and has no resistance.

One dog cannot give it to another without a vector or carrier and I asked the well-known and respected veterinary surgeon Dr María José Guerrero of the Hospital Veterinario in Alhaurín el Grande to expand on this fact and to suggest preventive measures.

Dr Guerrero told me: “Canine leishmaniasis is caused by a parasite known as leishmania and is transmitted by the mosquito phelbotomus. It is endemic in all the southern Mediterranian zones.

“Prevention of the disease is of the utmost importance and should include the application of an insecticide that lasts with a base of permethrin like Advantix, Frontline, Trii Act or the use of collars with deltamethrin like Scalabor or Flumethrin.”

Dr Guerrero advises that in high-risk areas the combination of these mosquito repellents together should be considered, along with a vaccination that exists in the market against the risk of leishmaniasis.

She also advises that, as far as possible, dogs should be kept indoors at night. Of course they must go out to answer the call of nature. I would add that owners should never allow their dogs to sleep outdoors.

Zero risk does not exist but Dr Guerrero and I are of one voice in our objective to minimise the risk of dogs contracting the disease.


Keep a watchful eye on symptoms which include hair loss, soreness of the ear tips, losing weight but eating well and whiteness of the eyes.

Everyone likes to be proved right in their suspicions. Frankly I hate being proved right in this case. If you suspect your dog has this complaint, go to your vet for a blood test. Only that test will reveal the truth.

Do not take risks, especially in summer.