Diseases of Dogs in Southern Europe

In the following part we would like to draw your attention to some diseases that can affect dogs and which are especially common in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Sadly, many dog owners only start getting to know about these medical conditions when it is often too late and their dog is already affected by a disease. With this basic information we would like to increase the awareness for these illnesses; for a more complete picture about these and other animal diseases that are prevalent in Southern European countries, as well as suitable preventative and therapeutic measures for your dog, please talk to your veterinarian.

Leishmaniosis (Leishmania Canis)
Leishmaniosis is an illness occurring in Europe primarily in the South and the Mediterranean area, which is transmitted by the sting of the sand fly. The sand fly is at home in all Mediterranean countries, in Turkey, in Greece, Portugal, Southern France, Spain, Canary Islands, Italy, partly also in Germany (so far only Baden-Wuerttemberg) as well as in Switzerland.
In southern Spain the sand mosquito season generally lasts from spring (February/March) up to late autumn (October/November) - reaching its peak in mid summer. Sand mosquitoes are wind sensitive, and are thus never found directly by the sea. They fly only at night, about one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise. Sandmücke © Sinclair Stammers

The clinical signs of leishmaniosis vary considerably between dogs which makes it very difficult to recognise cases affected by the disease. One of the first signs that has been described is fraying of the ears (it looks as if flies had nibbled the edges of the ear). Frequently it comes thereby to small tore, usually with shinglng at the ears, the head, and finally at the entire body. There are small, open lesions over the whole body. These wounds are usually round and heal extremely bad. The skin lesions gradually start affecting the head, the hind legs, and eventually the entire body. Diseased animals suffer from a loss of appetite, strong growth of the claws, hair loss, nose bleeds, chronic diarrhoea, and weight loss. These symptoms are often followed by anaemia, lameness, and finally kidney failure, the most frequent cause of death of infected animals.

Prevention & Prophylaxis
If you plan a journey into one of the countries specified above, it is important to meet the necessary preventive measures before departure in order to protect your dog sufficiently against stings by sand flies. We have made very good experiences with the SCALIBOR® collar (by Intervet). You can purchase a Scalibor collar from your veterinary practice; here in Spain you can buy Scalibor in all larger pet shops. The Scalibor collar is available in two different sizes. It should be put on the dog at least one week before travel commences, so that the active ingredient (Deltamethrin) can distribute itself over the dog's skin and thus can provide full protection. In addition, the collar protects against other parasites (e.g. ticks and fleas) and is effective against sand flies for about 6 months.

Heartworm Disease or Dirofilariosis (Dirofilaria Immitis)
Heart worms are internal parasites (endoparasites), which are transmitted to dogs through the sting of infected mosquitos. In the adult stage, approximately 6-7 months after a dog has been stung by an infected mosquito, the heart worms start damaging the dog's heart and lung. A dog can be infested by 1-100 of adult heart worms, which can reach 15 - 35 cm in length. Although Dirofilariosis is a condition that mainly affects dogs, it can also be contracted by cats, ferrets, foxes, cojotes and wolves. Heartworm Disease (Dirofilariosis)

In most cases there are no clear clinical symptoms. Particularly dogs that have only recently been infected show at first no signs of disease. A dog, that has been suffering from Dirofilariosis for a longer period of time, can show a loss of appetite, weight loss and chronic cough; it tires more easily and can even loose consciousness during or after physical exercise (due to heart insufficiency). Your veterinarian can diagnose heart worm disease by a blood test and apply appropriate therapeutic measures.

Prevention & Prophylaxis
Preventive measures should be used everywhere, where the disease is known to occur frequently, i.e. in endemic areas where dogs are exposed to the infected mosquitos. If you plan to take your dog with you on vacation to an area where heartworm disease is prevalent, prophylaxis is urgently recommended. A modern method to protect your dog against difilariosis consists of a monthly preventative medication. We personally have made very good experiences with PROGRAM PLUSŪ (by Novartis). Program Plus is is available as a tablet and comes in different sizes and doses which correspond to the appropriate weight of the dog. The dog is given the first tablet within the same month during which he has been exposed to the mosquitos; subsequently, one continues to give the medication within the same monthly interval, whilst the dog is still in contact with mosquitos. The last dose is given one month after the dog is no longer exposed to mosquitos. In some areas, like here in the South of Spain, the mosquitos are active all year round. Therefore one has to repeat the heart worm prophylaxis once a month, throughout the whole year.


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