Pet insurance companies call it a pre-existing condition. I call it leishmaniasis.

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Dog Insurance

Canine Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a disease that causes a skin infection and/or an organ infection. It is fatal if left untreated.


Leishmaniasis is caused by a one-celled parasite, spread by the sand-fly.

Sand-flies absorb leishmania when they bite an infected dog, and pass on the parasite when they bite another dog.

Humans can also get infected with Leishmaniasis, but not from a dog.


Organ infection:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhea, vomiting
  • Fever
  • Bleeding from the nose

Skin infection:

  • Hard, thick footpads with no color
  • Hard lumps in the skin
  • Dull and brittle hair
  • Hair loss

If you notice any of the above signs, go to your veterinarian immediately, as this may lead to an enlarged spleen, kidney failure, and eventually death.


Your veterinarian will suspect leishmaniasis if you have recently traveled to or live in an infested area, and may perform:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Tissue biopsy


If your veterinarian finds a positive diagnosis for canine leishmaniasis, treatment may include:

  • Medication
  • IV fluid support
  • Prescription diet
  • Antibiotics

The treatment only reduces the immediate danger. The parasite stays in other organs, so relapses are common. Your dog will also be a life-long source of leishmaniasis for other dogs.

You must monitor your dog carefully and follow up with your veterinarian.


If you live in an infested area, do not let your dog outside in the evening, because sand-flies are up at night.

There are also sprays available that kill insects.


Most dogs with leishmaniasis will die from kidney failure.

If your dog is diagnosed and treated in the early stages of the disease, the prognosis is better.

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