Leishmaniasis in dogs: is there a specific diet? | Vets & Clinics

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Leishmaniasis in dogs: is there a specific diet?

Leishmaniasis in dogs is a disease produced by protozoa of the genus Leishmania, in particular Leishmania infantum. It is transmitted through mosquito bites in the Mediterranean area.

Veterinary medicine and care

Its main clinical manifestations are dermatitis, anorexia, weight loss, mucosal pallor and lymphadenopathies. Laboratory tests typically reveal anaemia, thrombocytopaenia and plasma protein changes.

Treatment for leishmaniasis in dogs consists of controlling the clinical signs and improving the animal’s quality of life. Given the potential gravity of leishmaniasis, it is very important to introduce appropriate treatment, which usually consists of meglumine antimoniate for 45 days at a dose of 80 mg/kg/day and allopurinol 10 mg/kg/12 h for 90 days.

However, are there any adjuvant treatments that can be indicated in addition to drug therapy?

Affinity conducted a prospective study to assess whether a specific diet for leishmaniasis in dogs could influence the animal’s evolution, both clinically and analytically.

Diet as an adjuvant therapy for leishmaniasis in dogs

The diet used in the study was the Advance Veterinary Diets Leishmaniasis Management, whose main characteristics that complement leishmaniasis treatment are:

  • A high antioxidant content to stimulate the immune system.
  • Balanced levels of high biological value proteins to improve muscle mass recovery without damaging the kidneys.
  • Excellent palatability and digestibility to help promote rapid weight regain.
  • Limited content of purine bases to prevent the formation of xanthine stones which tend to precipitate with allopurinol treatment.

Other benefits of Advance Veterinary Diets Leishmaniasis Management include:

  • Contains linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and biotin, which all contribute to skin and hair recovery.
  • Optimised ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, to reduce the inflammatory response, especially in the skin.
  • Extra dose of vitamin C, to prevent the onset of eye problems.
  • Low phosphorus levels, to reduce the possibility of kidney damage.

Clinical results of the study into leishmaniasis in dogs

After administering the diet for 90 days as an adjuvant to the usual drug therapy for leishmaniasis in dogs, the authors reported the following clinical results:

  • Body weight and composition: the mean body weight gain was 8%. In addition, based on the body condition score (BCS), the animals with the lowest weights at baseline experienced an increase of 24%.
  • Lymphadenopathy: the improvement in any lymphadenopathies is a sign of immune system recovery. By the end of the study, only 2 out of 21 animals continued to suffer a lymphadenopathy, as it resolved in 10 other dogs.
  • Skin disorders: at the beginning of the study, 14 dogs had severe dermatological disorders. After 90 days, none of the dogs had either moderate or severe lesions

Laboratory results of the study on leishmaniasis in dogs

The laboratory results were as follows:

  • Erythrocytes: upon analysing erythrocyte, haematocrit and haemoglobin counts at the beginning of the study, at least one of these parameters was abnormal in 13 animals, and all three parameters presented alterations in 9 animals. At the end of the study, only one dog had abnormal results in all three parameters, and just two dogs had one altered parameter.
  • Thrombocytes: at baseline, seven patients had thrombocytopaenia, but only one was affected at the end of the study.
  • Creatinine: this was monitored in all animals to check for any kidney damage. Creatinine levels were normal in all of the dogs.

Action at immune level

  • An increase in vitamin E levels (from 7.1 to 38.6 µg/mL): vitamin E’s main actions as an immune system stimulant are the increased activity of neutrophils and macrophages, as well as the increased production of T-helper lymphocytes and interleukins which are involved in the Th1 type cell-mediated immune response.
  • Rebalances lymphocyte populations: it improves CD4+ helper cell numbers by inhibiting CD8+ lymphocytes.

In conclusion: From these clinical and analytical results, we can conclude that dogs with leishmaniasis improved not just clinically and analytically, but also in terms of their immune response.

To summarise, leishmaniasis is a chronic disease in which pharmacological shock treatment and a suitable, immune-boosting diet will improve the dog’s clinical signs and quality of life, and consequently the patient’s overall well-being.

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