The expression of IgG, IgG1 and IgG2 specific antibodies for Leishmania infantum was studied in five groups of dogs in Catalonia (Spain): I, 99 asymptomatic dogs (infected and uninfected) from a highly endemic area for leishmaniosis; II, 139 untreated dogs with clinically patent leishmaniosis; III, 11 naturally infected asymptomatic dogs monitored for up to 5 years since they were found seropositive to Leishmania antigen and without treatment; IV, 25 naturally infected dogs with clinically patent leishmaniosis and treated with either meglumine antimoniate and allopurinol or allopurinol alone and V, six experimentally infected dogs, treated with meglumine antimoniate and controlled for 5 years. The levels (ELISA units) of IgG, IgG1 and IgG2 in asymptomatic dogs (group I) were very variable (24+/-33, 32+/-31 and 26+/-31, respectively), and, as expected, lower than in ill dogs (group II) (168+/-34, 84+/-71 and 172+/-31, respectively). In both groups, the correlation between IgG and IgG2 levels (r=0.95, P<0.001 in group I and r=0.63, P<0.001 in group II) was higher than between IgG and IgG1 levels (r=0.01, P>0.05 in group I and r=0.31, P<0.001 in group II). In group III, IgG and IgG2 expression increased during infection, while IgG1 expression remained the same. In dogs of group IV, IgG levels after 1 year of treatment decreased more in responsive (mean values, 163+/-42 before treatment (b.t.) and 100+/-36 after treatment (a.t.)) than in unresponsive dogs (158+/-29 b.t. and 124+/-51 a.t.), especially for IgG1 (94+/-89 b.t. and 20+/-21 a.t. in responsive dogs and 35+/-25 b.t. and 22+/-13 a.t. in unresponsive dogs) rather than for IgG2 (156+/-16 b.t. and 114+/-45 a.t. in responsive and 151+/-11 b.t. and 125+/-36 a.t. in unresponsive dogs). Similar results were observed in the evolution of experimentally infected animals after consecutive and specific treatments. Overall results show the great variation in Leishmania-specific IgG1 expression in asymptomatic and symptomatic dogs, their lack of correlation with that of IgG2 and chemotherapy is more effective in dogs with initially high expression of IgG1.