All our Greek & Turkish setters are tested for Leishmaniasis prior to coming to the States. Two tests are actually performed using the best options available. One is an IFA blood antigen test and the second is a FNA (fine needle aspirate) test of the lymph node. We have been told that there are no better tests that can be done either in the USA or in Greece. While the tests are good, if the parasite is completely dormant, it could still exist and not register on either test. That is why the annual testing requirement is included in all our international adoption contracts.
The Leish test costs can vary, depending on your vet and to what lab and what area of the country the specimen is sent for analysis. It can be a bit expensive because it isn’t a typical test performed in the US, so only certain labs are equipped to do it. Some vets send the test out to the IDEXX lab in California. While costs do vary, they seem to be in the range of $150-250, depending on which test is run. The bloodwork for the test can be taken by any regular vet and sent out.
Based on the information we have gathered and the information provided by veterinarians in both Greece and the US, we understand the following about transmission of the disease: Leishmaniasis can be transmitted to humans, however it is not transmissible via normal contact. Leish is a parasite that is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected sand fly. It is similar to Lyme disease in some respects. If an infected tick bites a human or a dog, they can both get Lyme disease, but you cannot get Lyme disease through direct contact with your dog. Leish is the same. The only way it can be transmitted through direct contact is generally through sexual contact or direct blood to blood transfer. Having a dog with Leishmaniasis has not been shown to create any increased risk to humans in the household.
If caught early, Leishmaniasis is typically very treatable and manageable (although, also like Lyme, the parasite may not ever be completely eradicated). If not diagnosed or treated, it can cause organ failure and be deadly; again this is why the regular testing is so important. There are very effective treatments available for Leish, should a dog develop it down the road. The Rescue will work with you should this ever happen. Since 2017, we have rescued over 300 dogs from Greece and Turkey and have had 2 dogs test positive during an annual screening. Both were treated successfully.
Additional resources, shared by rescue colleagues in Europe, are linked below. There is also an excellent group on Facebook called Living with Leish, moderated by folks with knowledge and expertise on this disease.
Please reach out if you have any other questions or concerns. Thank you for considering an international rescue dog.