Leishmaniasis is uncommon in dogs in the United States and it’s even less so in cats. It’s most often found in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. But with climate change and the ease of global travel, it’s been cropping up in the United States, too. What’s more, leishmaniasis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can affect people as well as animals.
The cause is a parasite that’s transmitted by sand flies. There are two types of leishmaniasis: a skin form and a form called visceral leishmaniasis, which involves the abdominal organs. Infected dogs may be asymptomatic for years, but they always end up with visceral leishmaniasis, which is ultimately fatal.
Leishmaniasis can be treated but it cannot be completely cured. So, there’s a lot to consider with this exotic disease — and no time to waste if your pet could be affected.