Previous studies on Leishmania infantum and the canine immune response are derived mainly from short-term studies. To date, there have been no longitudinal studies that perform a serial analysis of the intensity of infection in conjunction with immunological parameters and clinical signs in Leishmania-infected dogs. For this purpose, six dogs were infected experimentally by the i.v. route and were monitored for 1 year. Clinical, immunological (humoral and cellular response) and parasitological (parasitaemia) parameters were evaluated monthly. Four dogs developed clinico-pathological signs compatible with leishmaniasis, whereas two dogs showed few abnormalities during the study. Evaluation of clinical, immunological and parasitological parameters showed that the intensity of Leishmania infection in blood samples, as indicated by the amount of Leishmania DNA, was correlated significantly with IgG, IgG1, IgG2, IgA, and IgM concentrations and with clinical signs. Parasitaemia and Leishmania-specific cell-mediated immunity were inversely correlated. Moreover, higher quantities of Leishmania DNA were detected in the liver, spleen, lymph node, skin and bone marrow of dogs exhibiting clinical signs than those exhibiting few such signs. These findings suggest that progressive disease in experimental canine leishmaniasis is associated with specific T-cell unresponsiveness and unprotective humoral responses which allow the dissemination and multiplication of L. infantum in different tissues.