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Leishmaniasis Vaccine for Dogs

Sandflies in warm climates can carry the Leishmania parasite, which may result in your cat or dog developing Leishmaniasis. A sandfly repelling dog collar, such as the Scalibor Dog Protection Band is the first line of defence against Leishmaniasis. It offers up to twelve months’ protection from sandfly bites. You can also use a Seresto Dog Collar which, although doesn’t prevent sandflies from biting your dog, is now fully licensed to reduce the risk of Leishmaniasis for up to 8 months. In addition, it’s advisable to give your dog a daily dose of Leisguard Syrup during specific months of the year. So, if you’re travelling from an area with no sandfly risk, such as the UK, Leisguard Syrup should be used if you holiday in the Mediterranean during the infectious season. However, for some pet owners, it may be difficult to administer a daily dose of medication, or you may simply prefer to have your dog vaccinated instead. In this case, a Leishmaniasis Vaccine can be used jointly with a sandfly repelling collar to reduce the risk of your dog catching Leishmaniasis. While there’s no vaccine available for humans yet, there are a few global Leishmaniasis Vaccines approved for use on dogs. The Leishmaniasis Vaccines licensed for dogs in the UK and EU are LetiFend® and CaniLeish®. Keep reading to find out more about LetiFend vs CaniLeish for dogs, including dosage, efficacy, side effects and cost.

canileish vs letifend leishmaniasis vaccines for dogs side effects dosage effectiveness scientific studies efficacy

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What is Leishmaniasis in Pets?

Canine Leishmaniasis or Feline Leishmaniasis are the result of the Leishmania infantum parasite being transferred to the pet’s bloodstream, following the bite from an infected female sandfly.

Only the female sandfly (phlebotomine) feeds on mammals, and usually does so to be able to produce eggs. Not only a nuisance to us humans, sandflies are for sure a significant threat to pet travel safety. However, here in Portugal, our veterinarian doesn’t recommend protecting our cats from Leishmaniasis, as cats just don’t make great hosts for the Leishmania parasite to develop.

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Sandfly Leishmaniasis Life Cycle in Dogs

Humans can also develop Leishmaniasis, with the disease being endemic in some countries.

The threat of Leishmaniasis in dogs when you travel to a warm climate is much more severe than that to cats. Subsequently, Leishmaniasis prevention treatments, such as Leisguard Syrup and the Leishmaniasis Vaccines, LetiFend and CaniLeash, have been developed for dogs.

LetiFend Leishmaniasis Vaccine for Dogs

LetiFend is a veterinary vaccine used in dogs to protect them from developing active Leishmaniasis due to the Leishmania infantum parasite. The parasite is widespread in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and is transmitted by the bites of sandflies. Dogs that have been infected may show no signs of infection, but some have active disease with symptoms such as fever, hair and weight loss, and skin sores.

From the age of 6 months, LetiFend is approved for use on dogs to reduce the risk of Canine Leishmaniasis from sandflies. Protection begins 4 weeks after the vaccine has been administered and is effective for one year. A booster jab then must be repeated annually for continuous protection.

LetiFend contains the active substance Protein Q, which contains fragmented proteins from Leishmania infantum. The vaccine uses DNA technology to teach your dog’s immune system to respond to the Leishmania Infantum parasite.

In clinical studies, dogs vaccinated with LefiFend were found to be:

  • Almost 10 times less likely to present clinical signs of Leishmaniasis
  • At 5 times less risk of developing clinical Leishmaniasis
  • 3.5 times less likely to be infected with the Leishmania Infantum parasite

In a field study in France and Spain, 275 dogs were vaccinated with LetiFend and 274 dogs received a placebo. All dogs were exposed to natural infection with Leishmania infantum. Over a two year period there were 8 confirmed cases of Leishmaniasis in the vaccinated group compared with 19 cases in the placebo group, showing that LetiFend was effective in reducing the occurrence of the disease.

Of course, like all vaccines, the LetiFend Leishmaniasis Vaccine for Dogs has possible side effects.

LeftiFend Side Effects

The most common side effect, found in around 10% of dogs, is scratching at the injection site. However, this should resolve within six hours. In total, 827 dogs were studied across seven clinical trials, which all found LefiFend safe and well-tolerated. No undesirable effects were found after vaccination, annual booster or long-term follow-ups at 730 days.

See below for details of LetiFend vs CaniLeash Leishmaniasis Vaccines side effects.

CaniLeish Leishmaniasis Vaccine for Dogs

CaniLeish is a vaccine that contains a number of proteins which are released from the Leishmania infantum parasite during its growth. Like all vaccines, CaniLeash aims to teach the immune system how to respond if infected by the disease. Therefore, when the CaniLeash vaccine is given, the proteins it contains teach your dog’s immune system how to deal with the foreign invaders from the Leishmania parasite.

To reduce the risk of Leishmaniasis, CaniLeish should be administered annually. It can be given to dogs from the age of 6 months old.

CaniLeash Side Effects

After injection, some dogs may experience moderate reactions, such as swelling or pain. These temporary side effects usually last from 2 days to 2 weeks. Other temporary reactions to the CaniLeish Vaccination include:

  • Hyperthermia (raised body temperature)
  • Apathy (lack of vitality)
  • Digestive Disorders

These side effects should only last from one to six days. If your dog experiences reactions for any longer than the specified timeframes, or shows signs of severe discomfort, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

LetiFend vs CaniLeish Dosage

LetiFend requires just one vaccination dose, which after 28 days, offers protection against Canine Leishmaniasis. A booster is required every year.

On the other hand, the initial CaniLeish vaccination requires three initial vaccine doses, then an annual booster is necessary.

Winner: LetiFend

LetiFend vs CaniLeish Efficacy

In a randomised, double-blinded, controlled trial, the efficacy of the CaniLeish Leishmaniasis Vaccine was assessed by exposing 90 dogs to natural Leishmania infantum infection.

The vaccine was well tolerated, and provided a significant reduction in the risk of progressing to uncontrolled active infection or symptomatic disease. This research, carried out in Canine Leishmaniasis endemic areas around the Mediterranean, reported an efficacy of 68.4% for the CaniLeash Vaccine.

A clinical study of LetiFend found the vaccine to be well tolerated, with the rate of Leishmaniasis in the vaccine group significantly lower than in the control group. The overall efficacy of the LetiFend vaccine in the prevention of confirmed cases of Leishmaniosis in endemic areas was shown to be 72%.

When comparing the efficacy studies of LetiFend vs CaniLeish, LetiFend was reported to be slightly more effective.

Winner: LetiFend

LetiFend vs CaniLeish Side Effects

In 2020, a scientific study in Portugal, where Canine Leishmaniasis is endemic, compared the risk of side effects of LetiFend vs CaniLeish.

Data was collected from 157 dogs, with 73 inoculated with CaniLeish and 84 with LetiFend. Of the animals vaccinated with CaniLeish, 15 developed adverse effects. The incidence of these effects did not appear to be related to the age or sex of the animal. However, there appears to be a relationship between the weight of the dog and risk of side effects, since 12 of the 15 weighed less than 15 kg. The breeds of dogs that had experienced side effects from CaniLeish were mostly on the smaller side, such as Yorkshire Terriers. 

On the contrary, the animals vaccinated with LetiFend did not develop any adverse effects, based on the studied sample. With regards to side effects, the LetiFend vs CaniLeish study concluded that LetiFend is safer. 

Winner: LetiFend

While LetiFend is the clear winner, be aware that these vaccines are relatively new, and it’s likely more research findings will become available over the coming years. Always speak to your veterinarian about the available options for Leishmaniasis prevention, as they’ll make informed choices based on your dog’s individual needs and medical history.

There are many other vector borne disease to consider when you travel with your pet, including those transmitted by ticks, fleas and mosquitoes. The risk of cat and dog diseases for your chosen destination should be discussed with your veterinarian, who will advise the best pet travel safety treatments and medication.

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