Directions for the diagnosis, clinical staging, treatment and prevention of canine leishmaniosis

Vet Parasitol. 2009 Oct 28;165(1-2):1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.05.022. Epub 2009 Jun 6.


Canine leishmaniosis (CanL) due to Leishmania infantum is a life threatening zoonotic disease with a wide distribution in four continents and importance also in non-endemic regions. The purpose of this report is to present a consensus of opinions on the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of CanL in order to standardize the management of this infection. CanL is a disease in which infection does not equal clinical illness due to the high prevalence of subclinical infection among endemic canine populations. The most useful diagnostic approaches include serology by quantitative techniques and PCR. High antibody levels are associated with severe parasitism and disease and are diagnostic of clinical leishmaniosis. However, the presence of lower antibody levels is not necessarily indicative of disease and further work-up is necessary to confirm CanL by other diagnostic methods such as cytology, histopathology and PCR. We propose a system of four clinical stages, based on clinical signs, clinicopathological abnormalities and serological status. Suitable therapy and expected prognosis are presented for each of the stages. The combination of meglumine antimoniate and allopurinol constitutes the first line pharmaceutical protocol. However, although most dogs recover clinically after therapy, complete elimination of the parasite is usually not achieved and infected dogs may eventually relapse. Follow-up of treated dogs with blood counts, serum biochemistry, urinalysis, serology and PCR is essential for prevention of relapses. Protection against sand fly bites by topical insecticides is effective in reducing infection, and recent development of vaccines has indicated that prevention by vaccination is feasible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dog Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Dog Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Dog Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Dog Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Dogs
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology
  • Leishmania infantum / physiology
  • Leishmaniasis / diagnosis
  • Leishmaniasis / drug therapy
  • Leishmaniasis / physiopathology
  • Leishmaniasis / prevention & control
  • Leishmaniasis / veterinary*
  • Zoonoses


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antiprotozoal Agents