Leishmaniasis in dogs results in reported first death in UK

A dog has died after contracting a tropical disease which can be passed on to humans.

Leishmaniasis is responsible for 40,000 deaths annually, mainly among the poorest communities in the world.

It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of infected female sand flies, and can lead to lesions, weight loss and kidney failure.

Previously cases of the killer disease had involved breeding programmes, blood transfusions or travel to an affected area.

But vets have issued a warning after leishmaniasis was passed between two UK dogs for the first time.

In medical journal Vet Record, Dr Myles McKenna and colleagues said: “It is important to take note of this first reported case of likely dog-to-dog transmission of Leishmania infantum in the UK.

“Historically we had considered this to be a condition affecting dogs with a travel history to areas where Leishmania infantum is endemic.

“Dog-to-dog transmission in non-endemic areas has previously been reported, for example in the USA, but this case serves as a reminder to UK veterinary surgeons that we must be vigilant for conditions such as Leishmaniasis in non-travelled dogs and that alternative transmission mechanisms do exist.”

The case follows an English pointer diagnosed with the disease despite never leaving Essex.

The dog was not in contact with another infected dog, but it is believed its owners had brought back infected sand flies in transport, luggage or clothing after living in Spain – without their pet.