Leishmaniasis in Dogs and Climate Change in North America
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Canine leishmaniasis is a serious parasitic disease that can be fatal for dogs. For this reason, it is one of the main diseases which requires vaccination control in companion animals. Incidences of leishmaniasis do occur. Due to vaccinations, greater public awareness and other factors, we can best try to control the spread of this disease and prevent our dogs from being infected. Unfortunately, some new information is warning of a potential rise in leishmaniasis cases.
At AnimalWised, we look at leishmaniasis in dogs and climate change in North America. We see how rising temperatures can increase incidences of this disease and what the repercussions may be for our dogs.
What is canine leishmaniasis?
Canine leishmaniasis is a disease caused by a parasite called Leishmania. The disease is spread by a very small, mosquito-like insect called a sandfly. Sandflies transmit leishmaniasis by biting and extracting blood from an infected dog, then transferring the disease when they bite another dog afterwards.
Leishmaniasis generally appears as one of two types:
- Cutaneous leishmaniasis: affects the skin.
- Visceral leishmaniasis: affects the internal organs, specifically the liver and kidneys.
There are various symptoms of the disease which are largely dependent on the type:
- Cutaneous leishmaniasis: hair loss, skin peeling, harden mucus membranes, infections, lesions, ulcers, etc.
- Visceral leishmaniasis: sudden weight loss, alopecia, fever, anemia, decrease in muscule mass, loss of appetite, liver and kidney damage, etc.
Leishmaniasis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from dogs to people. This occurs in the same way as it does intraspecifically, i.e. through the bite of the sandfly. The dog itself cannot transmit the disease.
Learn about other mosquito-borne diseases in dogs.
How do temperatures affect sandflies?
In the past, canine leishmaniasis was associated with the spring-summer season. Unfortunately, each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. This has led to increasing temperatures in North America, as well as all over the world. The outcome for incidences of leishmaniasis is that the activity period of sandflies is increasing as do temperatures.
An increase in leishmaniasis incidence has already been seen in parts of Europe, including Spain and France. This is because sandflies are alive for longer parts of the year. This has since been seen in parts of North America. In fact, the general increase in temperatures has not only prolonged the number of months in which sandflies are active. It has also increased their geographical distribution, reaching areas where they were barely found before.
These findings have shown that leishmaniasis has been spreading northwards through North America. Incidences have even been found in parts of Canada, where previously this disease did not occur. In short, with rising temperatures, there is a greater risk of vector-borne diseases such as leishmaniasis.
Preventing the spread of leishmaniais in dogs
A large part of controlling the spread of leishmaniasis is down to animal authorities. Tracking and testing for this disease to monitor its progress is important. This should be done on a large scale. However, there are actions that we can carry out as dog guardians to help stem the spread of this and other diseases.
There are different treatments that can minimize the risk of your dog being bitten by a sandfly and thus contracting canine leishmaniasis. As a first step to fight against this disease, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and ask for information on the best prevention options for your dog. The first is to ensure your dog has the right vaccination schedule implemented.
Deworming in the form of antiparasitic products is also an important part of prevention. We also need to look at the activities of the parasites themselves. Sandflies are more active during sunset and dusk. We recommend you avoid walks at that time and do not let them sleep outside.
To reproduce, sandflies often prefer holes and cracks such as basements, garbage cans or tree roots. This is because these areas are both humid and protected. It is highly advisable to check the interior and exterior spaces of your home and install mosquito nets on the windows to prevent sandflies from entering your home.
Finally, we need to ensure we provide sufficient checkups with the veterinarian. This is especially important as the dogs age. Not only can the veterinarian help us understand incidences of leishmaniasis in our local area, but they can test for the disease and implement any treatment where necessary.
Learn more about the consequences of this disease with our article on leishmaniasis in dogs.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Leishmaniasis in Dogs and Climate Change in North America, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.
1. IPCC. (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Retrieved from:
2. Dereure, J., et al. (2009). The potential effects of global warming on changes in canine leishmaniasis in a focus outside the classical area of the disease in southern France. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis., 9(6), 687-94.
3. González, C., Wang, O., Strutz, S. E., González-Salazar, C., Sánchez-Cordero, V., & Sarkar, S. (2010). Climate change and risk of leishmaniasis in north america: predictions from ecological niche models of vector and reservoir species. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 4(1), e585. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000585