|by Bruce Hymers
I have had several requests this month do deal with the subject of Kalazar. This disease, also known as Leishmaniasis, is a protozoan infection which affects dogs, wild carnivores and rodents, but not cats. It is endemic in the Mediterranean and is transmitted by sand flies the same way in which mosquitoes transmit Malaria. In rare cases it can infect humans, but through different sand fly bites and usually in cases where the immune system is already compromised.
Kalazar rarely shows symptoms until it has already done moderate damage to the animal; attacking blood related cells and the immune system. The first apparent symptoms are excessive claw growth and a musty smell. In later stages the animal may lose weight, have dandruff on the head and neck, the coat becomes dull and patchy with hair loss around the eyes, scabs appear on the body, a white discharge from the eyes or nose, bleeding around the ears, nose and joints, and difficulty in walking. In its final stages, Kalazar causes liver and kidney problems, the spleen, liver and lymph nodes become enlarged and the animal may stop eating or become bulimic.
There is no cure for this disease but if caught before the final stages it is very treatable. A blood test is available from the vet and is recommended to be done every six months. Preventing infection is simply a matter of keeping sand flies off your dog, but this is easier said than done. They only bite at dawn and dusk so keeping dogs indoors at those times is wise when practical. Flea and tick repellents don't discourage sand flies but mosquito repellants do. There is a repellent spray available from the vet but this has to be applied every evening and morning. Also available from the vet is a special sand fly collar available impregnated with deltamethrin which discourages ticks too. The only brand I could find which specifically mentions sand flies is SCALIBOR but there may be others.
It is not possible for a dog to infect humans with Kalazar in any way, it is only transmitted between dogs by a sand fly which never bites humans.
PAWS is currently looking for volunteers to help with fund-raising this summer. It would be better to have many people giving few hours rather than few people giving many and getting tired, so please contact us if you can spare some time and perhaps bring a friend.
Next month I will be reporting on all the candidates for the municipal elections and will inform you on their intentions regarding stray animal welfare should they attain office.
It would be useful to be able to tell them there are some votes waiting to be had, so please, register to vote and inform PAWS that you have done so. It would be a great achievement to have the candidates vying for your attention with promises of more help in keeping the stray population healthy. Our aim is not to influence how you vote, but to let the candidates know that you're there.