May issue

May issue
May issue

Monday, 27 June 2011

Shoo fly


We run a dog training and behaviour centre in the south of Spain, we have numerous clients that are ex pats and we have our own set of problems in a climate like this.

The main one which we have not been able to help with is from a lady who has a lovely little Min Pin who can not wear a scalibor collar to protect her from sand fly and the disease they carry, Leashmaniosis.

Do you know of any holistic treatments that may help protect her dog from this horrible disease?

Many Thanks

Nando Brown, by email

Richard Allport, vet, says...

Leishmaniasis is an unpleasant disease that attacks the immune system, causes serious and widespread organ damage and is often fatal, and for which there is no cure. Jenny, as always, has all the facts perfectly correct – it is spread by sandfly bites, and sandflies are mainly active at dawn and dusk. Sandflies are mainly active from May to September. At present Leishmaniasis doesn’t occur in the UK, but it is widespread in the USA, in parts of Canada, and in all the warmer European countries such as Spain and Italy. This means Leishmaniasis is a risk for dogs living in these countries and also for dogs travelling through these areas. Unfortunately a Pet Passport gives more freedom of movement for dogs in the UK, but puts them at great risk of contracting Leishmaniasis and many other diseases not yet seen in this country.

It’s correct that Scalibor collars aren’t 100% effective (they are about 86% effective, apparently). Advantix is a spot on that contains two insecticides and is said to be effective at both repelling and killing sandflies, but the manufacturer does state that it cannot be guaranteed to prevent the odd bite, and is therefore not a guaranteed protection against Leishmaniasis. However, it’s a lot better than no protection!

There are certainly holistic methods of reducing the risk of sandfly bites. Firstly and most obviously, keep dogs indoors during dawn and dusk, especially from May to September, Secondly, use garlic regularly during the sandfly season, and you can give garlic as an added extra to the diet, but also use garlic as a spray directly on the skin around dawn and dusk – the smell doesn’t linger too long, honestly!

Other natural fly repellents include Mint, Pennyroyal and essential oil combinations such as Rosemary and Lavender.

Realistically no treatment – natural or chemical – is totally effective. My view is that dogs in the UK should simply stay there and not travel abroad. For those that live in areas where sandflies are active, or if a dog really has to travel there from the UK, then use a combination of natural methods and judicious use of a Scalibor collar or Advantix. However, I would be worried about the regular and long term use of these insecticidal agents as the active ingredients involved are pretty potent chemicals.

Alison Logan, vet, says...

Sand flies, or more properly phlebotomine (or blood-sucking) sand flies can transmit leishmaniasis to dogs and humans, and several other important diseases. They are found in warm climates, primarily southern Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. Dogs living in the south of Spain certainly need protection against sand flies because the disease they carry, leishmaniasis, is very serious indeed.

Scalibor (Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health) is a deltamethrin-impregnated collar which not only repels but also kills sandflies. It is therefore unfortunate that this min pin cannot wear one, presumably because of a hypersensitivity to pyrethroids.

Despite their name, sandflies are not a beach insect but are mostly found in gardens, woodland and the countryside in general. Mediterranean sandflies generally remain outside, and they are active from sunset to sunrise. The peak time of year for transmission of leishmaniasis is May to September, extending into October if it is still warm.

Just as we are advised to take active steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes rather than just relying on anti-malarial drugs, so it is wisest to try to avoid sandflies in the first place. It is therefore generally recommended to keep dogs indoors from dusk to dawn, from May to September or October, and this would particularly apply to a dog unable to wear a Scalibor collar.


  1. I don't know of any holistic remedies but just wanted to say that even the Scalibor collar is not 100% effective, so even dogs who can wear them still need extra precautions to be taken. Sandfly is most active at dusk and dawn so it is best if dogs are indoors during those peak sandfly times.

    The active ingredient in Scalibor collars is deltamethrin. Maybe you could see if you can find another form of that, such as a topical treatment? There is also a spot-on product called Advantix (by Bayer) which says it protects dogs from ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and sandflies.

    I have also read that being bitten by sandfly is less likely on a windy night and therefore setting a fan near the dog's sleeping area could help.

    Prevention is obviously better than cure but often dogs in at risk areas should be blood tested around the end of January each year as early detection enhances the chances of survival if the dog is infected.

  2. I just saw Richard's reply suggesting garlic. Great idea. Garlic deters all manner of biting nasties, does it Richard? This could be a good supplement to add to their food all year round do you think? What would be a good amount to give?

  3. Sorry, something else I wanted to comment on with regards Richard's post and the use of the Scalibor collar. I and most people I know living in sandfly areas (I live in Malta) use Scalibor collars on their dogs all year round, changing them every 6 months. Like you I worry about the constant use of such potent chemicals. Do you think it is safe to only use Scalibor collars from May to October and have a break from it altogether from November to April?