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A retrospective clinical study of canine leishmaniasis in 150 dogs naturally infected by Leishmania infantum
  1. P. Ciaramella, DVM1,
  2. G. Oliva, DVM1,
  3. R. De Luna, DVM1,
  4. R. Ambrosio, DVM1,
  5. L. Cortese, DVM1,
  6. A. Persechino, DVM, PhD1,
  7. L. Gradoni, DB2 and
  8. A. Scalone, DB2
  1. 1 Istituto di Clinica Medica Veterinaria, Università Federico II, Via Delpino 1, 80137 Napoli, Italy
  2. 2 Laboratono di Parassitologia, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299 Roma, Italy


The clinical and laboratory findings observed in 150 dogs naturally infected by Leishmania infantum, from a large endemic area of southern Italy, are described. There was a gradual onset of clinical signs and the course of the disease was progressive in almost all the cases. The majority of the dogs were mongrels (43.3 per cent), male (64.7 per cent), of medium size (50.6 per cent), three to seven years old (64.7 per cent), and living outdoors (60 per cent). They showed generalised (56.7 per cent) or symmetrical (32 per cent) lymphadenomegaly; the mucous membranes of 87 of the dogs (58 per cent) were pale and moderate or severe splenomegaly was diagnosed in 80 dogs (53.3 per cent); weight loss was observed in 32 per cent of the animals. Skin abnormalities were very common, and included dry exfoliative dermatitis (56 per cent), ulcers (40 per cent) periorbital alopecia (‘lunettes’) (18 per cent), diffuse alopecia (14 per cent) and onychogryphosis (24 per cent). Ocular signs were observed in 24 dogs (16 per cent) including 16 cases of keratoconjunctivitis (three with keratoconjunctivitis sicca), six cases of moderate uveitis and two cases of panophthalmitis. The acute form of the disease was diagnosed in only six dogs and was characterised by fever and generalised lymphadenomegaly, and by the absence of skin lesions. Another six dogs had severe renal failure without systemic clinical signs of leishmaniasis. The most important laboratory findings were a severe or moderate increase in gammaglobulins, hypoalbuminaemia, hyperproteinemia and anaemia. Cultures or cytology tests for L infantum parasites were positive in 134 of the dogs. Following the standard procedures developed for human lymph node and bone marrow cytology tests, the leishmania density in the dogs varied from 1+ to 2+. Leishmania antibody titres were high (>1:160) in almost all the dogs. Immunological tests for autoantibodies were positive in 25 of 53 dogs tested in the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test, in 15 of 43 dogs tested in the latex test and in five of 24 dogs tested in the Coombs test.

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