Mediterranean disease in dogs: symptoms and definition

“Mediterranean disease” is a collective term for a range of diseases that typically affect dogs in the Mediterranean region. However, some have long since found their way into Central Europe. Because they are different infections, there are no symptoms associated with the Mediterranean disease per se. In addition, the dog is often infected with several pathogens simultaneously, and the symptoms frequently only appear much later.

Would you like to know whether your dog or do you want to adopt from abroad suffers from the so-called Mediterranean disease? The real question is, “Does he suffer from any of many diseases typically found in southern and south-eastern Europe?” Below you will find an overview of the various diseases that are often grouped as Mediterranean diseases and their symptoms and diagnostic options.

Mediterranean disease: one name, many individual diseases

“Mediterranean disease” is not a medical category but a colloquial term. The term includes the following diseases:

● Anaplasmosis
● Babesiosis (piroplasmosis)
● Lyme disease
● Ehrlichiosis (tick fever)
● dirofilariasis (heartworm)
● Hepatic zoonosis
● Leishmaniasis
● Giardia

The diseases often have very unspecific symptoms, so they are not easy to recognize. As a rule, specific blood tests are necessary to diagnose an infection with a Mediterranean disease reliably.

Distribution of the Mediterranean disease
The Mediterranean disease is named after the area where the infections are most common. In a broader sense, this means southern travel countries, which is why the Mediterranean diseases are classic travel diseases. The risk countries include:

● Bulgaria
● Greece
● Italy
● Canary Islands (La Palma, Tenerife)
● Crete
● (Southern) France
● Croatia
● Macedonia
● Montenegro
● Portugal
● Romania
● Spain
● Sardinia
● Switzerland (Ticino)
● Serbia
● Sicily
● Turkey
● Hungary
● Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza)

However, people’s great desire to travel has long since allowed diseases to roam. Some previously only common infections in the Mediterranean region can now also affect dogs in Central and Northern Europe. In addition, the incubation times are sometimes so long that even in Germany, the infection can occur from dog to dog because it was not even clear when crossing the border that the animal was ill.

Difficult diagnosis of Mediterranean disease
The symptoms sometimes appear with a considerable delay, but blood tests sometimes only show for sure that an infection is present six months later. To prevent diseases from being brought in, quarantine periods of more than six months would have to be observed, which is impossible for animal welfare reasons. Some of the Mediterranean diseases have always been native to Germany. You can only find them much less frequently here, as good medical care prevents them from spreading widely.

Mediterranean tick bite disease: symptoms
The following symptoms may accompany anaplasmosis:
● fever
● apathy
● loss of appetite
● vomiting
● diarrhoea
● Joint inflammation
● lameness
● blindness

But don’t worry: the immune system of a healthy dog ​​can cope well with the disease. The symptoms of this Mediterranean disease usually only break out when the immune system is weak or when there is a lot of stress.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infectious disease widespread in Europe and affects humans and animals alike. Infection often goes unnoticed for a long time because the course of the disease is slow and insidious. In an acute, later phase, you can observe the following:
● loss of appetite
● Reluctance to exercise
● fatigue
● High fever up to 40.5 °C
● Swelling of the lymph glands

Ehrlichiosis (tick fever) is also called rickettsiosis and is shown by the following symptoms:
● fever
● Shortness of breath
● vomiting
● Nosebleeds
● Bleeding of the skin and mucous membranes
● Purulent, mucous discharge from the eyes
● Corneal opacity leading to blindness
● Swelling of the lymph glands
● Organ damage
● weight loss

This Mediterranean disease often occurs together with babesiosis.

Hepatozoonosis is not caused by a tick bite but by swallowing infected ticks. The pathogens first attack the muscles and later the intestines, which manifests itself in the following symptoms:
● muscle pain
● Inflammation of the muscles
● Hobble and limp
● fever
● Bloody diarrhoea
● weight loss

A complete cure is not possible.

Mediterranean diseases caused by mosquito bites
Babesiosis (piroplasmosis) is also called dog malaria because mosquitoes infect it, similar to human malaria. However, infection by ticks is also possible. Visible symptoms are:
● Very high fever up to 42 °C
● Rapid exhaustion
● anaemia
● Jaundice
● Red or greenish urine

The course is mostly fatal.

Mosquitoes transmit heartworm larvae (dirofilariasis), which infect the blood vessels in the heart and lungs. Symptoms are a result:
● Shortness of breath
● Chronic cough
● weight loss
● Disorders in the functioning of the heart and lungs
● Damage to the liver and kidneys

Although treatment (sometimes surgical) is possible, it is challenging and hazardous due to the worms, up to 30 centimetres long, in the heart’s ventricles.

Leishmaniasis is transmitted through the bite of the sand fly and butterfly fly and leads to:
● Swollen lymph nodes
● Small open patches of skin
● claw problems
● weight loss
● fatigue
● apathy

It is an immune disease that is fatal if left untreated.

Infestation with parasites as a Mediterranean disease
In addition to Mediterranean conditions in the narrower sense, parasites can also occur. In addition to the classic mites, fleas, lice, worms and tapeworms, Giardia, in particular, is a typical souvenir from warm countries.

The tiny intestinal parasites are passed to the dog, for example, through water and food that infected faeces have contaminated. However, Giardia can also be transmitted from dog to dog (e.g., licking). With a healthy immune system, the disease is usually symptom-free. However, especially in young or weak dogs, repeated diarrhoea can occur, sometimes bloody, foamy or slimy. The result is weight loss, growth disorders and a dull coat. Sometimes skin infections also appear.

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