Our longest serving employee, Julie Sturgeon, has been with us for 27 lovely years!

We all know and love Julie therefore we have decided to tell you a bit more about her.

Julie was born and raised in Colchester after her parents moved away from London hoping to find a quieter place to raise their family. One of her family friends was a veterinary surgeon and Julie used to go and see the practice for a couple of weeks every year, where she developed her passion for animals.

Before working here she worked in a local garden centre where she was responsible for various things.  Although she enjoyed her job there it still wasn’t as fulfilling as she wished and that’s when she heard a local veterinary practice was looking for an extra hand.

In 1990 she applied for a job at this practice through the youth training scheme, this training was done over a period of two years where she learned a bit of everything. From animal care to client care Julie has always been an example to everyone.

She is known and loved by everyone and does not surprise us that she has made some good friends through this practice.

Back then the way of working was a bit different especially due to the fact that referral centres weren’t available as they are nowadays and most procedures were done at first opinion practices. As veterinary medicine evolved, so did the veterinary clinic! One of the advances Julie was happiest with was the digital X-Ray developer, as she does not miss being shut in a dark room processing the old fashion way!  But its that constant evolution of the veterinary industry and the Mayne Veterinary Clinic that has maintained Julie’s love of working in the veterinary industry. From acupuncture to chemotherapy, the practice and it’s professionals make sure they keep up with the most recent and effective techniques and therapies, there’s always something new to learn.  That and getting to work with her favourite dogs and cats all day long.

Throughout her life Julie has had several animals from stick insects to horses, at the moment she has two lovely dogs, Fern a 12 years old Border Collie and Rio a two and half years old, very energetic, Mini American Sheppard. Fern is a retired agility dog and Rio just started his agility career last year.

Fern was a very successful agility dog, going to competitions such as the International Agility Festival that takes place in Rockingham Castle. Due to her age Fern doesn’t train anymore but absolutely loves slower walks and resting time on the sofa.

Julie’s last pet was a lovely Labrador called Archie and he was the reason she started agility. Archie had all the silliness a Labrador can have and was in need of some training.  The agility work really helped to give him fulfilling exercise and the chance to have some mental stimulation,  he could still be silly at times, but also loved the bond and understanding that came with the training.

Agility has always been a big part of Julie’s life and after 27 years of training dogs for agility competitions she now owns her own agility school called Severalls Agility School and we couldn’t be more proud.

Throughout the years the practice has faced a few changes of ownership and in Julie’s opinion, it hasn’t changed how much she enjoys her job, quite the opposite.  Nowadays with Charlotte and Keith Mayne on board, and the advancing of veterinary medicine, we can provide an extremely good service to all our clients. After all these years Julie has seen several clients go through different pets but it’s lovely to see them coming back to us with their new animals.

Julie believes that the fact that she works in an independent veterinary practice allows her to provide personal care to all our clients; allows her to get to know them, and for them to know her. She loves working in such a friendly environment where people not only care about the patients but they also care about their owners.

She is such a valuable member to this working family, always looking after everyone and keeping us up to date and generally being a fountain of knowledge and experience.

Here at the Mayne Veterinary Clinic, we all love Julie and we are certain hope you do too.

Offer: Two Vaccinations For The Price Of The Booster

For the next couple of weeks we are joining with MSD to offer you to BOOST and PROTECT your dog and cat.

Life can pass us all by and it is really easy to forget to make the appointment for your pets yearly booster.  Before you know it, its now overdue meaning your pet might not have adequate protection against some nasty diseases. When this happens your pet needs two injections to get them back up to date, unfortunately, this can be expensive.  To help cover the costs we, along with MSD, are offering you the chance to have the two vaccinations for the price of the booster, but you will have to visit us twice!!

Vaccines offer protection for a range of preventable infectious diseases including parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and leptospirosis for dogs and cat flu, feline panleucopenia and feline leukaemia virus for cats. These are all serious diseases which can prove life threatening or result in long-term health problems. Until recently we had been doing really well nationally at eradicating these diseases, but sadly this is no longer the case.  More people are relying on the rest of the population to vaccinate, forgetting to vaccinate or choosing not to vaccinate which means the number of unvaccinated pets is increasing.  As a result the chance of these diseases becoming more prevalent is increasing and the chance of your pet contracting one is higher.  

You may remember that when your dog was a puppy or your cat a kitten it was vaccinated twice, with an interval of 2-4 weeks between injections. These two injections were required to ensure a full immune response to all parts of the vaccine. After this, a single dose given at regular recommended booster intervals is usually sufficient to keep your pet protected. However, if the interval becomes significantly overdue a second dose of the vaccine may be recommended to ensure the best chance of maintaining cover against these diseases.

At the time of vaccination we give your pet a full health assessment and ensure there are no signs of any other illness or disease risk. Remember on average our pets age faster than us humans meaning a year is a long time in an animals life.  This makes the annual health assessment so much more important to ensure that they continue to live as happy and healthy a life as we can hope for; and should we detect any problems, catching them earlier often means we can do more to prevent or slow down the progression of disease.

If you would like to see if you qualify for the Boost and Protect offer or if you are concerned that your pets vaccination cover might have lapsed then please contact reception on 01206851338 or send us an email.

Rose’s not-so-sweet treat: The dangers of Xylitol for dogs

On 23rd January, we were having our usual Wednesday meeting when we received a rather panicked phone call from a client who was concerned that her 9-month-old French Bulldog Rose had eaten up to 58 bits of sugar-free chewing gum. Now to some people, this seems like silly puppy behaviour and nothing too much to worry about, especially as Rose had vomited most of the chewing gum up shortly after chewing it. But luckily for Rose, Emma was aware of the risks of the Xylitol in the chewing gum and knew she needed to be seen by us as quickly as possible.

On arrival at the surgery, Rose was very bright and looked rather pleased with herself. But Gemma and Emma, who were the vets on duty that afternoon were worried about her and started to administer treatment straight away, getting some advise from the Veterinary Poisons Services (VPS), whose call handler said there was no report of a dog ever eating this much Xylitol and they were very worried about Rose, how she might respond and had the very real concern she might die.

Rose was admitted to the hospital and initial bloods were taken, Xylitol can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) as a dog’s pancreas will confuse it will real sugar, which makes it release more insulin. The insulin then removes the real sugar in the body, leading to plummeting blood sugar levels. Rose’s blood sugar was going down so she was started on a glucose infusion and her blood glucose levels were checked every 2 hours.

Another reaction to xylitol is liver failure and this is even more serious, but it’s not known what causes this to happen, the liver failure can also cause problems with blood clotting meaning it takes longer for blood to clot. Sadly for Rose, both her liver parameters and her blood clotting times were elevated. She was started on liver support medication and Vitamin K to help with the clotting. We also started her on a fast rate of fluid therapy so we could support her as much as possible and shift all the toxins from her body.

Although there is no evidence to say activated charcoal helps the VPS suggested that with that amount of Xylitol Rose had consumed it might just do something, this of course made all of us have very black hands and Rose a very black face as she enthusiastically ate the charcoal covered food we gave her. All the chewing gum had done nothing to decrease her appetite.

Rose was transferred to Vets Now for overnight care, her family came to move her from one surgery to the other but sadly her owner’s eldest son, who is Rose’s biggest fan was too upset to come. However the next morning he was proudly bringing Rose back to us with reports she had done very well overnight.

Rose’s blood parameters continued to improve during the next day with us and we decided she was well enough to go home overnight as long as she was monitored closely. So her family woke up every hour to check on Rose and arrived at the surgery the next morning looking slightly tired but very happy that she had been well overnight.

Rose stayed with us that day but was so well in the evening she went home on just a couple of medications. She was checked a couple of days later and everything was back to normal.

Rose had a very lucky escape from the Xylitol, and a lot of pets are not that fortunate, there has been reports of a labradoodle dying after eating a brownie which contained Xylitol. There are more products than you might think which can be dangerous, peanut butter, mouthwash, jellied sweets and some jams can all pose a threat to your pet, and remember although you might think it is well hidden, dogs noses can seek out the best hiding places and they love eating naughty things.

Rose is now having a great life and is completely back to normal but she would strongly advise her doggy friends NOT to eat chewing gum the fresh breath just isn’t worth it.

If you are ever concerned your dog or cat should have eaten something it shouldn’t have and it could be dangerous then please do contact us at the surgery.

Has Spring Sprung?

For many of us, we have different ways of deciding when the different seasons have arrived from the falling of leaves in autumn to the first snows of winter.  In the veterinary industry, we look for slightly different signs;  we know summer has truly arrived when we start seeing grass seeds stuck in ears and between toes, we know winter has arrived when we see a big jump in flea problems as people start switching on their central heating.  Spring is heralded by the arrival of our first ticks.  So, despite the fact the weather still doesn’t seem too sure what time of year it is, we are proud to officially declare that, as far as vets are concerned, Spring is here!  So what does that mean to you and your pets and what has changed over recent years?


The primary concern for dogs as we are entering the spring months is the appearance of fleas and ticks.  Fleas tend to be picked up outdoors through the summer months, but once they have started laying eggs indoors, they can be very tricky to get rid of.  Thankfully, they are normally more of a nuisance than anything else.  They often can go unnoticed until the central heating gets switched on in November, the fleas that are all happily hiding in their puppa decide it must be summer again and all hatch out at once!

Ticks are slightly more of a concern.  Up until recent years we have also been lucky enough in this area to also consider ticks a nuisance more than a major concern, however there has been an increase in disease risk over the resent years that owners should be aware of.  There are two types of tick of concern in the Essex area and unfortunately both can carry disease.  The more common species can carry Lyme disease which can be a serious risk to both dogs and humans requiring prompt treatment if infected.  In Essex and Suffolk we also have the less common dermacentor tick.  It has been imported from Europe and occurs in pockets around the UK.  In Europe this  tick carries a disease called Babesia, which causes destruction of red blood cells in dogs.  Luckily, for most of the UK, the dermacentor ticks does not carry this disease.  Unfortunately in Essex, there have been enough cases of dogs that have not travelled to Europe being infected by Babesia for it now to be considered an endemic disease in this area. 

So what can you do?  First of all please don’t panic!  These diseases are still rare and should not be reason to not exercise your pets.  However it would be a good idea to check your dog regularly for ticks, especially after walking in wooded areas.  If you find a tick, it is best removed using a tick hook and a twisting motion to remove it entirely (one of our nurses would be happy to show you how).  Methods using tweezers to squeeze the tick, attempting to burn the tick off or use paraffin are not very successful and can increase the chance of causing infection.  Tick prevention is always better than cure and we have an array of treatments including spot-ons, tablets and collars so we can find a treatment to suit everyone.  We are always happy to advice on which products are safest for your household and will still kill ticks fast enough to prevent disease transmission.  Finally, if you or a family member notices a tick bite on yourselves, please remember to get it checked by a doctor.


The start of spring is a simpler time for our cats, the longer days can mean longer wonders around the country side which can increase the number of cat fights we see, but the warmer weather brings fewer parasite concerns.  Fleas can obviously still be a problem and the cat flea is far more prevalent than the dog flea.  Cats are much more prone to flea allergies in which flea prevention treatments are essential.  However, cats seem to attract fewer ticks, they are not susceptible to disease from the species of Babesia we have in the UK, and Lyme disease is rarer in cats.  However, “rarer” does not mean “never” so we would still advocate regular tick checks in cats and the use of good quality flea and tick preventative treatments


For our smaller furry friends, the spring and summer months bring lots of grass, access to our back gardens but also the arrival of biting insects.  Unfortunately biting insects can bring myxamatosis and VHD viruses with them.  Luckily these viruses can be vaccinated for with 2 vaccinations given 2 weeks apart followed by yearly boosters.  If you have any concerns please contact our clinic to discuss vaccination.  Flies can also bring issues with “fly strike” which can result in maggot infested wounds especially around the tail area.  This can be prevented with regularly grooming and fly replant treatments when required but please contact us at the clinic for more information

Also, you might like to know we are running an open day for rabbit owners on Saturday the 27th April with lots of fun activities for the younger members of the family.  Please check our “Coming up” article for more information, keep an eye on our facebook page for more updates or give us a ring at the clinic if you would like to reserve a spot.

None of these are reasons to not enjoy the beautiful summer weather when it arrives, but it is important to be aware of some of the risks that can occur at this time of year, just as you apply suncream on a hot day, we need to consider parasite treatments for our pets.  Otherwise please enjoy the weather, and we at Mayne Vets would like to apologise if it has snowed since writing this newsletter.

Whizz-bang or whizz-gone? How to help cats cope with fireworks.

While fireworks displays can really brighten up an autumn evening for us, for our cats, they can be really, really stressful! Unfortunately, the way a cat responds to sudden fear is all too often to run away and hide – but in a busy city, running away from home can result in becoming lost, attacked by other cats or dogs, or having an accident on a road. In this blog, we’re going to look at how we can help our cats to cope with the scary noises outside, and how to keep them safe when the rockets do fly.

How do cats respond to fireworks?

It does, of course, depend on just how scared they are. If the fireworks are totally unexpected, very close or very loud, then panic sets in. The cat may:

  • Try to hide – for example, under furniture, or in a cupboard, anywhere where they think the scary “monsters” outside can’t find them.
  • Attempt to escape by climbing to a high, safe place where the “monsters” can’t follow. Typically this might be up the curtains, or onto shelves, or into the loft – even up the chimney in some cases.
  • A cat running in a blind panic just keeps going, and easily gets lost, attacked, or hit by a vehicle.

Less severe fear usually shows itself as signs of stress or anxiety. These may include:

  • Spending more time safe, hidden places.
  • Urine spraying and leaving faeces around – often near doors and windows.
  • Reduced time playing or socialising.
  • Overgrooming (this can sometimes be mistaken for a flea allergy, and can also cause hairballs).

 How can we help them be less afraid?

The best approach is to teach them that firework noises aren’t anything to be afraid of. There are two components to this – desensitisation and counter-conditioning, but the best results are usually from doing both together. As early as possible (i.e. NOW!) get a series of audio-clips of scary firework noises. We can supply a CD, or you can download them – it really doesn’t matter where you get them from. Then start playing them at a very low volume. If the cat ignores the noises, or responds in a non-fearful way, give him or her a favourite treat (tuna, prawns, cheese, whatever it is they really love!). The next night, turn up the volume by one click ONLY and repeat the exercise. Before long, they’ll come to associate fireworks with treats (and then you’ve only got to worry about them raiding the fridge on fireworks night!).

Using pheromones to reduce their overall anxiety levels is also invaluable – we recommend using Feliway, which is a synthetic version of Feline Facial Pheromone, and reassures them that they are safe, in their own territory, and not under any imminent threat.

There are other products available that may also help – the milk-protein tablets Zylkene are widely used to reduce anxiety. Unfortunately there haven’t been many good studies into their effectiveness, however, they may be worth trialling as part of a programme for reducing total stress levels.

Is there any way to help keep them safe during the fireworks season?

Ultimately, the best thing you can do if your cat is still scared is to minimise the harm they can come to.

The most important single intervention is to keep them inside when fireworks are expected. In fact, in an urban environment, it’s often good practice to keep cats indoors overnight anyway if possible – most cat fights and road accidents seem to happen during the hours of darkness. So get them used to coming in for a meal, and then staying in overnight, making sure all the doors and windows are firmly shut (to prevent escapes, but also to keep the noise outside). If they’re indoors, they can’t get lost, or hit by a car, or into a fight with a dog – they are much, much safer.

They can still get afraid though, so make sure you provide them with a suitable den that they can retreat to – a comfortable nest, hidden away, and ideally in the quietest spot in the house. Some cats prefer to be raised up, so you could put a cat basket, lined with comfy blankets, on a worksurface, for instance; but your cat will let you know where they feel safest!

Finally, try as far as possible to stick to your normal routine, and not to make an excessive fuss of them – any change in routine might only make things worse by making them feel less safe in the house.

If you need more advice, please feel free to give us a ring – our vets will be more than happy to advise and help you and your cat.




Top Tips For Keeping Your Pet Safe During The Summer

Summer can bring many happy pet memories, but it can also bring some extra challenges. Here we highlight some, so while still enjoying summer with your pets you can make sure they stay healthy too.


Heatstroke and sunburn


Heatstroke is common and potentially fatal. Because our pets have a fur coat and are only able to lose heat through panting, they are much more at risk of heatstroke than us. Short-nosed breeds (brachycephalic) such as pugs, bulldogs, Persian cats and lionhead rabbits are more prone, as are elderly or overweight pets. At first, they appear agitated but this can quickly lead to collapse and can be fatal. Dogs can die if left in cars in as little as 15 minutes, with signs of heatstroke in just a few minutes. With open windows, a car still becomes as hot as an oven quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.


If you think your pet is showing signs of heatstroke contact us immediately. Remove them from the heat and offer cool water. If possible, soak them in cool water. Cold water produces shivering, making them hotter so should be avoided – go with cool but not icy! Get your pet to the closest vet (even if it’s not us) as soon as possible.


Our pets’ fur gives some protection from the sun. Areas that are hairless or sparse can suffer sun damage and sunburn. White breeds with pink skin – such as bulldogs – often have sensitive skin. White cats especially are prone to sunburn on their ears and sometimes nose which can progress to skin cancer. It is important to keep your pets out of the sun as much as possible. Pet sun cream should be used on hairless or sparse areas around the head and ears.


Hazards in the garden


We see too many road traffic accidents in the summer when dogs escape through open windows and doors. Check your garden is fenced off so your dog cannot escape. Provide shade to rest in and water to drink at all times, and keep exercise to a minimum in the heat of the day.


Be aware that some plants are poisonous to pets. Daffodils, lilies, azaleas, laburnum and yew are a few. If in doubt, speak to a member of our team before planting anything new. Many pesticides and fertilizers can harm pets. Try safer, pet-friendly alternatives. Blue-green algae can be toxic if ingested. This is actually a bacterium but has an algae-like appearance when clumped together in stagnant water.


During BBQs, make sure your dog doesn’t have a chance to get at the scraps. Undercooked meat and fatty foods can make them poorly. Scavenging bones, skewers, or corn on the cob may end in risky surgery for removal. Use paper plates and cups, as broken glass and crockery can cause injury to paws. Make sure bins are secure.


Tips for travel with your pet


The effects of motion sickness can often be overcome by conditioning your dog to travel. Start in a stationary car, giving treats to form positive memories. Introduce a harness at this stage as it is important your pet is restrained for both their security and your own. Next, try with the engine running. Eventually, try driving just a few metres. Behaviour training takes time and patience and taking it extremely slowly is important. Small pets can travel in a carrier, wedged so it can’t tip over. Ventilation is essential. Don’t be tempted to fill the basket with comfy blankets in the summer, as this will increase the chances of your pet overheating. There are sprays that may have a calming effect on your pet, helping the training process.


Avoid long journeys in the heat. If unavoidable, then break the journey up and never leave your dog in a parked car. Remember that dogs die in hot cars. If you see a distressed dog in a vehicle please call 999, or either the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.


Do not feed them for a few hours before travel, but small amounts of water can be taken while travelling. If your pet suffers from motion sickness placing them in a footwell can help so they can’t see movement. Our vets can discuss medications for sickness if needed.


If you plan to visit other countries in Europe, please discuss your plans with our vets before booking. There are diseases spread by mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks, and fleas to consider. Different parasites may need to be prevented in different countries, too. Your pet will need an up-to-date pet passport issued under the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) and fulfil entry requirements to re-enter the UK. For details on how to get a pet passport, contact us. You can also visit gov.uk/take-pet-abroad or telephone DEFRA directly for further information.


Life’s a beach


If you’re lucky enough to be venturing on the beach, here are our handy tips:

  • Make sure your dog doesn’t eat too much sand, as large volumes can cause blockages. Drinking too much saltwater can also be dangerous. Offer them fresh water regularly and rinse the salt water off them when you can.
  • Remember not all dogs swim well. Take care of the tides, and introduce them slowly, especially if they have short legs (!).
  • With all the excitement your dog may not realise they’re overheating until it’s too late. Avoid the hottest part of the day and limit exercise.




Rabbits eat some of their faeces (caecotrophs) to enable them to recycle proteins. In summer this can make them attractive to flies, laying eggs that within 24 hours can hatch into maggots. Maggots chew through the skin causing flystrike, which is sadly often fatal. Check your rabbit’s bottom daily for urine staining and faeces. Speak to our veterinary team who can advise on how to prevent this and why your rabbit may be predisposed. Wounds on any animal can also be attractive to flies. Speak to our vets if you are concerned.


Have a good summer, and stay safe! Please do call us if you need any advice.


Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection affecting the gastrointestinal tract or liver and kidneys of young dogs. Until recently the disease was uncommon as a result of an effective vaccination programme in the UK. However, we have recently seen development of infections caused by new types of leptospira not covered by the old vaccine.

Leptospirosis (like Weils disease in humans) is caused by a spiral shaped bacterium (leptospira). Leptospira organisms are carried by rats and shed in their urine they do not usually last long outside the rat but can persist in wet environments. The likelihood of infection is increased in dogs that spend a lot of time in water.

The signs of disease are often dramatic and come on suddenly. In some forms of the disease there is vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. In others liver damage is severe and jaundice develops. Sometimes the kidneys are affected with acute renal failure developing. Animals may die quickly before signs of disease have had time to develop.

Your vet will probably suspect that your dog might have leptospirosis from the symptoms that you describe, your dog’s vaccination history and the findings on physical examination. A blood test may show a severe decrease in the white blood cell number and/or damage to the liver and kidneys. The bacteria can be seen in special samples prepared form a urine sample.

Therapy is “supportive” and consists mainly of injecting the dog with fluids and electrolytes via a vein in order to compensate for dehydration and correct for on-going losses of fluid by vomiting. In addition, dogs are treated with drugs to stop vomiting, and with antibiotics to control the bacterium.

Early detection of the disease before your dog deteriorates severely and the institution of good medical therapy, will give your dog a good chance of survival. However, some dogs do not survive despite proper medical care and early diagnosis. The disease appears to be more severe in young pups and in those that have had no vaccination against leptospirosis or have only just begun their vaccination course.

It is essential to vaccinate your dog according to your vet’s recommendations. Pups that are born to vaccinated dams usually have antibodies from their mothers (maternal antibodies) that protect them against infection during the first few weeks of their lives. The pup is in danger after the level of maternal antibodies declines in his blood and that is when he should be vaccinated.

Maternal antibodies prevent active vaccination, therefore a vaccine should be injected when the maternal antibodies are no longer protective and that time differs between pups. The vaccination is repeated in order to make sure that the dog has had an effective vaccine dose and to boost this effect. Additionally, dams can be vaccinated before they become pregnant.

Dogs that have recovered from infection may continue to spread the bacterium for many months and pose a risk for other animals and humans.

To prevent the spread of infection, sick dogs should be isolated from other dogs and cages and pens should be properly disinfected and cleaned. Pups who have not completed their vaccination schedule should be prevented from any exposure to potentially infected animals or their environment.

Leptospirosis is zoonotic (can be passed to humans). If your vet diagnoses leptospirosis in your dog, you should seek advice from your GP.


Leishmaniosis is a potentially fatal disease of dogs that can also affect other animals including humans. It is spread between animals by sand flies. Unfortunately domesticated dogs harbour the infection and your dog may catch it especially in countries around the Mediterranean, e.g. southern France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and the Middle East. Leishmaniosis is not uncommon in the UK because of the number of infected dogs travelling here. However, the sandfly that spreads the parasite between individual dogs, has not been identified in the UK yet.

Canine Leishmaniosis is caused by a small parasite that lives inside cells. The disease is spread by infected sand flies which pass the parasite from one animal to another when they bite and feed. The disease occurs in warm climates, e.g. Central and South America, the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. In these areas as many as 4 out of 10 dogs are infected. Dogs travelling into or through these areas can be infected.

Sand flies often live in woodland areas but recently they have adapted to survive in areas close to human habitation especially in South America. Sand flies are more common during the warmer months of the year although, with climate change, the seasonal period for transmission is increasing. Most sand flies that spread leishmaniosis are most active (and will bite) between evening and dawn. They are small flies and may not be easily seen.

Most affected dogs have swollen glands (swellings in the armpits, groin, around the throat) although these may not be obvious in long-haired breeds. Dogs may have poor appetite, listlessness, unwillingness to exercise and weight loss.

Skin problems are often seen. These may include loss of hair especially around the head and ears, scaly skin, swellings and ulcers on legs, foot pads and other areas including the mouth and tongue. Ulcers and inflamed areas can appear around the lips, nose, eyes and, especially, the tips of the ears. The nails may become very long and brittle.

Other signs may be seen depending on the area of the body affected and include lameness, eye problems, bleeding from the nose, drinking or urinating too much, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

Joints may also be damaged by the disease and this causes lameness, stiff gait and swollen limbs.

Signs of disease may develop a long time after infection (up to several years) or within a few months of being exposed to an infected sand fly. It all depends on how susceptible your dog is and the number of sand fly bites.

You should be concerned and consult your vet if your pet starts to show any of the signs of ill health mentioned above, after travelling abroad (or if it was born abroad). Always mention that your pet has spent time in a Leishmania area, whether they were adopted and then came in the UK, or if they have travelled to an area where leishmania occurs commonly – even if only for a few days.

As leishmaniosis is becomly increasingly common in the UK, more diagnostic techniques are being developed for vets. However, more than one test may be necessary to confirm if your dog has active infection or has just been exposed to an infected sand fly bite. Leishmaniosis can be confirmed with one or more of the following tests:

  1.  Looking for the whole Leishmania organism or looking for the Leishmania DNA (PCR testing) in samples from blood, glands, smears from the eyelid, bone marrow or skin biopsies.
  2. Looking for very high antibody levels in blood.

In dogs that have been imported from endemic regions to countries where Leishmaniosis is not common, diagnosis may be delayed as the disease may not always be considered initially.

Treatment in dogs is much more difficult than in people and the disease in untreated dogs is commonly fatal. Even with current treatments it is still not possible to completely eliminate the parasite. However, treatment can often dramatically reduce the clinical signs of disease and improve a dog’s quality of life. However, continued treatment may be needed life long in an infected animal to keep the parasite under control.

Treatment is not straightforward. There are licensed drugs in continental Europe for the treatment of leishmaniosis but these are not yet available in the UK. Your vet will have to do two things to obtain the right drugs:

  1. Contact a drug company which will import the drug into the UK for your pet
  2. Obtain a special certificate from the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate that shows that all details about the drug comply with UK standards

Treatment can be expensive and rarely results in a cure. Dogs that look very well can still harbour small numbers of parasites deep in some organs such as the bone marrow. Before treatment your vet will want to check your dog’s kidney function, liver function and immune system. The drugs used are very powerful and may produce significant side effects if the disease has already caused kidney or liver damage. If your dog has serious kidney problems. unfortunately the outlook is likely to be poor.

The most successful methods of treatment involve using a combination of different drugs. The most commonly used drugs are meglumine antimonate and allopurinol, but the combination of the new drug miltofisine with allopurinol may be a good alternative.

At present dogs that have never travelled outside the UK are at very low risk of developing leishmaniosis. However, if the sand fly manages to establish within the UK, this will change.

If you are taking your dog abroad to a country where leishmaniosis is common then it is important to protect them against biting sand flies. Dogs should be kept in during the evenings (when the flies are most active) and certain insecticides (synthetic pyrethroids) in spot-on and collar formulation with fly repellent activity should be used. None of these products provides 100% protection.

A vaccine for leishmaniosis in dogs has now been developed (CaniLeish® – registered by the European Medicines Agency in 2011).

Bites from infected sand flies are the major route of transmission of leishmaniosis. Just like dogs, people are usually infected by being bitten by sand flies. If you are visiting an area where leishmania is known to be common it is vital that you apply repellant insecticides on yourself (as well as your dog).

There are no published reports of direct infection from an infected dog to a human without a sand fly vector being involved. However, there are reports of transmission of infection from human to human by blood transfusions and contaminated needles. There are also rare reports of transmission from dog to dog without the sand fly vector. Considering this, general advice would be to limit contact between infected dogs and children or adults with a poorly functioning immune system.