Dog guardians caring for a dog with leishmania will likely be aware that a low purine diet is a key part of managing the condition, but why is this? 

A brief overview of Leishmania to start...

Leishmaniasis is a condition caused by a protozoa (single celled parasite) called Leishmania. It’s transmitted through sandfly bites to dogs, cats, animals and humans. Luckily, it’s not an endemic condition in the UK thanks to our colder climate, but commonly found in warmer countries such as those in the Middle east, the Americas, the Mediterranean, South east Asia and Africa (1). We do need to be more aware of this condition, however, as we’re seeing cases rise with infected rescues from abroad. 

The clinical signs and severity of the condition can vary, and it can take months to over a year before becoming a noticeable problem. Leishmania can spread bodywide- affecting everything from skin, nails, bone marrow, kidneys, liver and spleen to name a few examples – which means the symptoms can be hugely variable. Some dogs get scabby pads, faces and bleeding noses, whilst others progress to more serious symptoms of kidney disease: drinking and urinating excessively, weight loss and vomiting. 

Leishmaniasis can be diagnosed through blood tests, urine tests and biopsies, and treatment is usually lifelong (2).

Medication protocols must be decided on a case by case basis, and takes into consideration the stage of disease, severity of leishmaniasis and the symptoms your dog is showing. Your vet may discuss using allopurinol in combination of miltefosoine or meglumine antimonate. Antibiotics may be required if the skin lesions become infected , steroids if your dog develops immune mediated kidney or eye problems, and supportive treatment if your dog’s kidney functions deteriorate (3).

SO, where does diet come into this?

Unfortunately, dogs cannot be cured of leishmaniasis, but we monitor them closely and manage the disease progression and symptoms with a variety of drugs, one of them being allopurinol. This drug is given for 6-12 months at a time, and can increase the risk of xanthine urinary stone formations. Stones can develop in the bladder or kidneys and can result in painful urination, leaking urine, blood in urine, kidney disease, and increase the risk of infection. They can only be diagnosed on ultrasound, and usually need surgical removal. 

To avoid urinary stone formation, vets will advise to reduce the level of the amino acid ‘Purine’ in their diet. This is because Purine is a building block for the xanthine crystals. Purine is typically  found in the highest concentrations in fish, seafoods, red meat liver, kidneys, beef, lamb, pork etc. It is also present in plant ingredients like azuki beans, seaweed, soybeans, tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, buckwheat, parsley and spinach but in lower concentrations. 

Where does Omni come into this?

Whilst there is no leishmania specific diet, plant based diets, such as Omni, are naturally low in purines compared to traditional meat based dog food so could be a viable option for consideration. 

Whilst further analysis and research is required to provide a definitive answer, choosing a diet with low purine content and normal protein levels (3) should be a key part of successfully managing the condition. Whilst some guardians may opt for home cooking to reduce purine concentrations, Omni has the added benefit of being nutritionally complete and readily available. We also recommend taking the regular precautions recommended for any dog on medications such as allopurinol (increasing water intake to keep urine dilute and less saturated with crystals, and regularly monitoring urine for the presence of microscopic crystals). If however, your dog already suffers from xanthine crystals in the urine, we do not recommend using Omni as at this stage of the condition. Instead, a low protein diet should be considered. 

What can I do to prevent my dogs getting leishmaniasis? 

Use sandfly prevention if travelling abroad with your dogs to endemic areas. This may come in the form of a repellent collar or a spot on treatment. There are vaccines that are given on an annual basis for dogs living in endemic areas, but they don’t prevent infections. Rather, they train the body to make the appropriate immune response to manage the condition better- therefore should still be used in combination with an insect repellant. It’s also key to minimise exposure to sandflies - avoid leaving your dog outside at dusk and dawn, in wooded areas, particularly during warm seasons. Keep them indoors with you at night, shut windows and doors, and use insect nets for yourself and your dogs. 

Remember, our Omni life stage diets are vet formulated to be nutritionally complete, to ensure that your dog is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive at any stage of their life. Not only that, but we use high quality fruit and vegetables to ensure we are feeding our beloved pets the good stuff we’d want to eat also! 

If you have any concerns about your dog’s health or wellbeing, why not reach out to our vet and nutrition team to see if we can be of any help.  

  1. World Health Organisation (2023) Available at : (Accessed: 15th February 2023)

  1. Morales-Yuste.M et al. (2022) ‘Canine Leishmaniasis: Update on Epidemiology, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention’, MDPI; 9 (8) pp387. Available at (Accessed: 15th Februrary 2023)

Barker.E/ Langford Vets (2021) Leishmaniasis. Available at: (Accessed: 15th February 2023)


But aren’t dog’s carnivores?

Dogs are in fact nutritional omnivores as demonstrated by a robust scientific study published in the reputable journal Nature (1,2) in which it was shown that they have 30 copies of the AMY2B gene responsible for digesting plant-based foods.

They have also evolved relatively long intestines (21) (almost as long as humans) and relatively flat surfaces on their molars (31, 22) which they use for digesting and chewing a whole range of foods.

The common misconception that dogs are carnivores probably arises from the fact that they are classified in the order Carnivora but so are plenty of other species like bears, skunks, racoons who are omnivores and even the giant panda who thrives on a plant-based diet (20).

Is plant protein digestible to dogs?

Absolutely yes, studies which have looked at how much protein dogs can absorb from plant-based and fungi-based foods like soya and yeast demonstrated over 75% digestibility which is on par with meat-based foods (23, 24, 34, 35 & 25).

Both these protein sources also contain all 10 essential amino acids (36, 37) that dogs need to thrive.

Isn't there too much fibre in plant-based food?

The average amount of fibre in a commercial dog food diet is between 2-4%. omni’s plant-powered recipe has a fibre content of 3% which is on par with meat- based diets.

In our survey with over 200 dog owners, 100% reported that their dog’s stool consistency was either ‘normal’ or ‘perfect’ and there were no reports of any digestive upsets (data on file).

Can I mix omni with other meat-based diets?

We are proud that our recipes are nutritionally complete and so include everything your dog needs to thrive. This means omni can be fed as a sole ration. We also fully support a 'flexitarian approach' like meat free lunches or using omni as a mixer.

Every little helps to bring some of the health and environmental benefits of plant-power to meal times. Mixing omni with meat/fish will help to add variety into your dog’s diet whilst adding in healthy ingredients with a relatively low carbon footprint.

Can plant-based food provide the essential fatty acids dogs need?

All the essential fats and oils that dogs need, including omegas 3 and 6 are found in a variety of both meat and plant-based foods (31, 28).

omni’s recipe is rich in plant-based sources of these nutrients so your dog will get all the essentials they need.

I hear a lot about feeding raw meat, isn’t that better?

Feeding raw meat to dogs has become a very popular trend in recent years, but most vets will warn against this practise. This is because the cooking process is vital to help kill off dangerous bacteria like E coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter (9) that have necessitated several food recalls from the market and caused serious illness and even death in both dogs and their owners (40, 41, & 42).

There are also several worms and parasites that are only killed off when raw meat is cooked. Dogs are dogs, not wolves and thanks to their domestication over thousands of years, thankfully don’t need to hunt to get their grub nor do they need to eat raw meat, it's just not worth the risk.


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