Leishmaniasis precautions

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An inquiry from the UK about leishmaniasis protection measures.

DL by e-mail 26 3 2015

We live in the UK and have a small house on Hvar which we and our family use from around April to October. 

We are planning to bring our new dog (aged around 3 years) for the first time at the end of April.  We believe there is a vet in Stari Grad and wonder if you have any details and can tell us if they speak English.  We have read on the Defra website that dogs must be vaccinated against tapeworm before return to the UK and this would have to be done during our stay.  We also may have to have the 3rd dose of a course of vaccinations against Leishmaniosis administered.  Do you have any experience of using the vet or can you put us in touch either directly with the vet or with another resident dog owner who could advise us?

We would be very grateful for any help you can give us.

EH Reply 26.03.2015

None of that is a problem nowadays. You will need to check on the timings for vaccinations, worm treatment and so on, as I think there is a window where it all has to be done within a certain number of days of your actual return. The vets are competent for that sort of thing, and I think one speaks some English, but if there’s any problem with that I can help out.

I’m not sure about the leishmaniosis inoculations, but will try to remember to ask when I next go to the vet. One of my (10) dogs has it - I believe one of the factors was the spraying of the field next to mine with glyphosate (Roundup), following which my almond tree and the dog who eats his food under it fell sick, and they were closest to the boundary of the spraying. Harley nearly died, but thankfully is now recovering, although as I’m sure you know the treatment (with Allopurinol) has to last some 9 months.

If you need any help with any practicalities while you're over here, just let me know.

...

Does your dog actually have leishmaniosis?

DL replied that the dog was healthy, and UK guidelines for dog inoculations were being followed.

EH reply 27th March 2015

I think they’re erring on the side of over-cautiousness. I’m always wary of inoculations, as they all carry some kinds of side- or sometimes ill-effects. But, who knows?

Leishmaniosis is caused by a parasite, but it’s like other similar diseases, in that vulnerability depends on the immune system of the dog. So of my ten, who basically share the same conditions in the same fields, only one fell ill, which is why I suspect the influence of the herbicide on his immune system as playing a significant part. The spraying had been done some weeks previously (that kind of time lag is fairly typical), and Harley was the closest to it, as I said. When he became very ill, before he was diagnosed, he started to recover immediately when I changed his diet and started giving him spirulina. One vet had missed the diagnosis, which came later from the more experienced vet, after which Harley started on his course of Allopurinol. He is now well on the way to recovery, I’m glad to say, although I know the illness has a way of recurring (in this it’s similar to glandular fever in humans).

There are a few cases each year of leishmaniosis here, mainly apparently among the hunting dogs, who are exposed to quite harsh conditions, and are often under-fed. It’s certainly not widespread on the island, and of course we don’t have rabies here either, although dogs have to be inoculated because it exists on the mainland.

Anyway, it’s probably as well to be prepared, now that you’ve started the course.

Eco Hvar January 10th 2016

I have gained an enormous amount of (largely unwelcome) experience with Leishmaniasis this year, and am about to write a piece about it for the website. I've lived here permanently for nearly 12 years with my various dogs, and had never heard of the disease until last year. So I'm questioning why it suddenly seems to be so much of a problem. 

I hope you did manage to sort everything out without too much difficulty.

DL January 14th 2016

Our trips to Hvar with Duke went smoothly.  We had to miss the final (3rd dose ) of the leishmaniasis vaccine which was due while we were there a the vet in Starigrad told us it is not licenced in Croatia.  Duke had it when we returned to the UK and he was absolutely fine.  We also used a special collar to repel parasites and on the second of our trips he had very few ticks compared to the earlier trip.  He travels well and we will bring him to Hvar again this year when we come to open up our house in Vrboska and keep our fingers crossed that there are no problems. It is rather worrying to hear that there may be more of this disease around.  The UK border control is very strict about dogs returning to the UK so we are very careful that we have followed all the rules and guidelines for travel.

Summary

During 2015, it became obvious that the problem of Leishmaniasis is greater than we knew. If it is diagnosed early, it is controllable with treatment and, in most cases, a change in diet. But the symptoms are variable, so dog-owners should be on the alert for any of the less obvious signs, such as abnormal nail growth, in order to act in time.

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