Print Posted By Lost in France on 1 Sep 2008 in Living in France - Pets


The sand fly Phlebotomus
Leishmaniasis is disease caused by a microscopic parasite that lives inside internal organs and blood cells. Leishmaniasis mainly affects domestic pets and is prevalent in warm Mediterranean countries including southern France, it is not present in northern France.

The disease is severely debilitating and often fatal, once a dog is infected there is no cure only treatment to try to control the disease so preventing infection by the parasite is paramount.

The Leishmania parasite is carried by a sand fly of the genus Phlebotomus, a small blood sucking two winged yellowish fly that looks similar to a mosquito and is approximately 2 - 3mm in length. The disease is transmitted when dogs (and less commonly cats and humans) are bitten by a female sand fly carrying the disease.

Contrary to their name sand flies are not found on beaches as they prefer a more dampish moist habitat and are most commonly found in the countryside as well as in gardens, parks and woodland.

The most likely time of year for your pet to be bitten by the sand fly is during the summer season between May and September although with global warming this period may be extended. During the colder winter months there is almost no risk as the sand fly hibernates.

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Canine Leishmaniasis

Diagnosing canine Leishmaniasis is quite difficult as there are a large variety of symptoms and indicators so a clinical diagnosis must be made by a veterinary surgeon. Often there will be hair loss especially around the dogs eyes and muzzle, there may be skin sores and ulcers, nose bleeds, lameness, kidney failure and nearly always weight loss without any loss of appetite.

The incubation period of the disease can be as long as 6 - 18 months after being bitten, so if you have returned to the UK and your dog falls ill during this period showing the symptoms of leishmaniasis it is advisable to mention to your vet that your pet has travelled abroad during this time and could possibly have contracted Leishmaniasis.


The safest way to prevent your dog from contracting Canine Leishmaniasis is to keep him or her indoors between dusk and dawn which is the time period when sand flies are most active.

Other preventative treatments include topical solutions which are applied at regular intervals and impregnated collars the most popular of which is made by Scalibor which is officially recognised for use in France, these are available from veterinary surgeons and can be ordered in by your vet if you live in the UK and are preparing to travel with your pet to southern France.

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