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Leishmaniasis in Dogs FAQs

What are the signs and symptoms of leishmaniasis in dogs?

Some dogs can have the Leishmania parasite for extended periods of time and may not exhibit any signs or symptoms of disease (asymptomatic). In asymptomatic dogs, the parasite can lay dormant for a period of time, sometimes years, before a stimulant, such as stress or illness, triggers the parasite to multiply and attack the body and eventually lead to cutaneous leishmaniasis or visceral leishmaniasis. However, both asymptomatic and symptomatic dogs are capable of infecting sand flies and spreading the disease.

In most symptomatic dogs, the first sign of disease appears about 2-4 months after the initial infection. Symptoms may include sores on the skin, peeling, ulcers, loss of weight, bald patches, conjunctivitis, blindness, nasal discharge, muscular atrophy, inflammation, swelling, and organ failure, including mild heart attacks.

How do I prevent my dog from getting leishmaniasis?

There is currently no medicine to prevent leishmaniasis in dogs. The best way to prevent your dog from getting infected is to avoid regions of the world where it is found. Additionally, do not allow your dogs near a dog that is suspected of having the infection.

What should I do if I think my dog has leishmaniasis?

Contact your veterinarian. More information on leishmaniasis in dogs can be found at

What is the history of leishmaniasis in dogs in the United States?

Leishmaniasis has been found in a few dogs imported to the United States from areas of the world where the disease is prevalent. There is no competent vector to spread the disease in the United States and there has only been one major outbreak reported in the country. The outbreak occurred in foxhound populations throughout the eastern United States and Canada and spread in foxhound kennels through blood transfusions and by congenital transmission.

Can I get leishmaniasis from my dog?

No. There have been no documented cases of leishmaniasis transmission from dogs to humans.

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This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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  • Page last updated: November 2, 2010
  • Content source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria
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