The ressurgance and management of Leishmaniasis is rooted to the quality of the diet being consumed. I’ve condensed all my research into a simple article to help you make the best decisions possible for your dog.
What is Canine Leishmaniasis?
Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infectious disease with a long history of infecting both humans and animals. Leishmaniasis is an emerging or resurging disease, meaning it can remain dormant and return. The emergence – or resurgence – of the disease is innately connected to diet and immune system.
Leishmaniasis can cause two different types of infections: A cutaneous infection (skin infection) and a visceral infection (organ infection).
How do you know if your dog has Leishmaniasis?
Symptoms may be present from three months to several years after your dog becomes infected.
An early indication of Leishmaniasis is lymphadenopathy, which causes your dog’s lymph nodes to swell. Your dog’s skin may also present certain signs, which are frequent and variable in their presentation. About 90% of the dogs will present cutaneous lesions.
Other signs of Leishmaniasis involve anorexia, chronic enteritis, and weight loss (1,2,3,4).
What affects the progression of Leishmaniasis?
It has long been established that a dog’s nutritional intake is intrinsically connected to the immune response and, therefore, the progression of Leishmaniasis (5,6).
Unfortunately, the majority of tinned dog foods provide sub-optimal dietary benefits due to the fact that protein levels are lessened due to intensive food processing, denaturing proteins, reduced nutrient availability, and low-quality food sources.
As well as a low-quality, low-protein diet, obesity can also contribute to the advance of Leishmaniasis.
Weak Immune System
Having a weakened immune system plays a crucial role in the clinical manifestations of canine Leishmaniasis and is a fundamental aspect in the development and progression of the disease (7). Both Cutaneous and Visceral Leishmaniasis protection relies on cell-mediated immunity.
As inflammation is related to progressive diseases, reducing inflammation decreases the likelihood for both the emergence and resurgence of the disease (8,9,10,11). Inflammation is reduced by the specific fresh food diet plan detailed below, as well as a reduction in stress, exercise, and increased oxytocin (more time gazing lovingly at your dog) (12).
Inflammation is caused by:
- An incorrect or incomplete diet, leading to high blood sugar levels, high glycaemic carbohydrate levels, gluten sensitivity, and deficiencies in Magnesium, Zinc, and Vitamin D.
- Oxidative stress
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of sleep
Current Treatment for Canine Leishmaniasis
Unfortunately, the current medication prescribed for Leishmaniasis is extremely strong and not always successful. Allopurinol is associated with clinical relapse (13,14) and its side effects include urinary conditions, with one study finding that 45% of dogs taking allopurinol develop urinary issues (13,14).
There are also several side effects in the case of long-term usage of allopurinol, such as xanthinuria, renal mineralisation, and urolithiasis. Although Miltefosine is the first effective oral therapy for Visceral Leishmaniasis, it is expensive, potentially teratogenic, and has significant gastrointestinal side effects (15,16,17).
The Low Purine Myth
Often, low purine diets are recommended for dogs who are undertaking a therapeutic dose of allopurinol. This advice stems from one study affiliated with Royal Canin, which found that a low purine, moderate protein diet reduces the risk of xanthine urolithiasis, offering long-term dietary support for dogs being treated by allopurinol for Leishmaniasis.
However, this study was evidently biased, as Royal Canin only sells low-quality, low-protein diets. Furthermore, the dogs observed in this study were taking allopurinol daily, which is a therapeutic dose associated with extreme cases of canine Leishmaniasis.
For dogs who are on a maintenance dose of one week per month, studies have shown that allopurinol is an effective way of maintaining clinical remission in dogs with Leishmaniasis. (18). In these cases, standard to high protein diets are recommended. One study on the effects of dietary protein on Leishmaniasis progression showed that higher protein diets showed a stronger immune response and the participants had lower parasite loads (5).
How can I treat my dog’s Leishmaniasis with nutrition?
Arguably, the treatment of Leishmaniasis is most effectively done through diet, as it is simply impossible to provide an anti-inflammatory diet that builds up the immune system with processed food. Instead, a specific fresh food diet can address the underlying causes of Leishmaniasis, thereby stunting its pathogenesis.
Dr Artur Vasconcelos, a Brazilian veterinarian, found that dogs with moderate kidney issues who were fed a high-quality fresh food diet, had an unaffected life expectancy.
For dogs who are on allopurinol daily, and those showing signs of either cutaneous or visceral Leishmaniasis, a low purine diet should be consumed. However, for dogs who are taking a cyclical quantity of allopurinol or none at all, a specific anti-inflammatory diet should be consumed.
A normal medium–high protein diet should be given to dogs who are not currently taking allopurinol. If the maintenance dose of one week per month is being applied correctly, a low purine diet should be made available for that week.
A medium-fat diet should be given to all dogs. The inclusion of too many carbohydrates, which low-quality dog foods use as a cheaper energy alternative to fats, promote inflammation. A natural Omega-3 source (a fish-based recipe) should be used at least twice a week to ensure the PUFA ratio is balanced towards being anti-inflammatory.
Carbohydrate intake should be limited for all dogs, as they contribute to inflammation. Low glycaemic carbs can be used for those dogs who need a low purine diet.
Standard variations of fruit and vegetables should be given to complete your dog’s diet and ensure sufficient vitamin and mineral balance.
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In the Cancer info section, you have added a sentence that explains what these supplements are. Could we do something similar here, so that it is consistent?