Dog owners WARNED as first dog dies from new parasitic virus -and it can spread to humans

A dog is Hertfordshire has become the first to die from parasitic bug Leishmaniosis. The ‘zoonotic’ disease is mainly found in continental Europe, and can be passed from animals to humans, but primarily infects animals. Vets have raised the warning to dog owners in the UK, telling them to watch for key signs in their pets.

Writing in the BMJ, a team of vets laid out how dangerous the disease could be in the UK.

They said: "To the authors' knowledge, this is the first reported case of leishmaniosis in the UK in a dog without a history of travel to an endemic area.

"In an era of increased foreign travel of dogs and increased importation of dogs to the UK, it is likely that the number of dogs seropositive for L infantum will continue to increase.

"Leishmania-infected dogs may present an infection risk to other dogs, even in the absence of natural vectors, as direct transmission between dogs is possible."

A three-year-old shih tzu cross died from the disease, which has never before been detected in the UK. 

The dog showed none of the known symptoms of the bug, but vets believe it was passed from dog-to-dog transmission. 

Humans can also contract leshmaniasis, which can present in two strains - visceral leishmaniasis and cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Visceral leishmaniasis, which causes weight loss, fever and anaemia is fatal in 95 percent of cases which occur mostly in Brazil, East Africa and South East Asia.

The most common form is cutaneous leishmaniasis, which presents in skin lesions and ulcers, and crops up in the Americas, Mediterranean basin, Middle East and Central Asia.

According to PetMD, there are different categories of symptoms which dogs show when they contract the parasite.

These include visceral (affecting organs) and cutaneous (which affect the skin).

In its most severe form, leshmaniosis is known as ‘black fever’ and spreads throughout the body.

Most dogs will die from kidney failure when the disease progresses to its final stages.

Visceral symptoms

- Severe weight loss

- Loss of appetite

- Diarrhea

- Tar-like feces

- Vomiting

- Nose bleed

- Exercise intolerance

Cutaneous symptoms

- Hyperkeratosis — thick, scaly skin with loss of skin colour, and chapping to muscles and foot pads.

- Alopecia — Brittle, dry hair with symmetrical hair loss

- Nodules on the surface of the skin

- Intradermal (under the skin) nodules and ulcers

- Abnormally long or brittle nails

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