Health issues in Spinoni adopted from abroad

SOFA dogs and health conditions 

We try hard to give the most accurate picture possible of a dog’s health before it arrives. However, conditions can be undetected in both refuge and in foster, vets can miss things, translation issues can cause misunderstandings, or a dog’s condition can change. The stress of the journey or the change in diet and lifestyle can also precipitate a condition.

Because of this, for a dog arriving from overseas, it is absolutely vital that you have insurance in place for your dog before arrival. Insurance policies sometimes are not valid until two weeks after they are taken out so check this carefully. If the dog is uninsurable due to age, it is wise to have a sum set aside in case of treatment that may be needed.

The ISCGB has good general information on health for Spinoni which should be read in detail.

The two most serious conditions to be particularly considered when adopting from overseas are Epilepsy and Leishmaniasis.

Our policy as SOFA is not to bring Spinoni into the UK with either of these two conditions. But they have occurred in SOFA dogs because they were undetected before arrival.  


Leishmanias is a disease spread by sandflies in Mediterranean countries. The disease is very little known in the UK as we don’t have it here. It is not contagious in the UK as we do not have these insects. It is treatable, but not curable. However, correctly monitored and treated, Leish dogs have a good quality of life. There is good information at and an excellent support group – Living with Leish.  

All our dogs are tested for Leishmaniasis before travel, but there is always a very slim possibility that the disease can appear later. It can lie dormant for up to seven years. It is very, very rare for a dog to test positive for Leishmaniasis after arriving in the UK but it is not unknown.

We recommend a Leish test after the first year in the UK for all imported dogs.

All our adopters should know the symptoms of Leishmaniasis. Should a dog show any signs of the illness, a blood test should be arranged for the disease and we ask you to please contact us immediately. Leish should be considered as a possibility in any illness that seems unusual and could fit the symptoms.

Symptoms can be (but are not limited to)
• skin problems (especially around the head and pressure points)
• enlarged lymph nodes and spleen,
• eye problems,
• weight loss, lethargy,
• reduced appetite,
• nose bleeds,
• nasal discharge
• vomiting
• diarrhoea

Left – Amalfi showing clear symptoms of Leishmaniasis. Right – Very much improved in March 2021.

Leishmaniasis and SOFA
A total of four dogs from SOFA have tested positive for Leish after a negative test in Italy.
Three of these were from a single source – two litter mates and a half-sibling. These dogs were tested with an approved test at the vets, rather than a full laboratory test, and laboratory tests were very difficult to do during the early days of the COVID pandemic in Italy. We now test only with the full laboratory test, which will help to prevent a re-occurrence.

Treatment for Leishmaniasis in the UK can be expensive and difficult, so you should check your insurance will cover this condition.

You can read their stories here.


As is well known, Epilepsy is condition affecting Spinoni,
and there is always a possibility that an adopted dog could begin to have seizures  (just as any dog could). Not all dogs that we help have a fully known past.  In fact we have had only two dogs suffer from epilepsy after their adoption was arranged, but there is always a possibility that it could happen again, as there is no test for the condition.

Ear problems
Spinoni are prone to ear problems which can worsen with inattention and neglect. So neglected Spinoni often have very persistent ear infections and in once case a full TECA procedure had to be done.

Beautiful Mary had long term ear problems and eventually had to have a TECA operation.

Bone disorders / hip dysplasia

We have helped quite a few Spinoni with known issues with legs and bones. We provide the fullest information possible but, again, unknown issues can surface later, and vet’s opinions and treatment can differ. If adopting a dog with known issues, be sure to check your insurance details and be aware of what is and isn’t covered.

Pomi had a known issue with his back legs, but his spinal defect was undetected for many months. He has made a great recovery.

Other health issues

This list is not exhaustive! It is very common for Spinoni arrive with various issues major and minor. We have had dogs with eye infections, skin problems, a lump that proved cancerous and had to be removed, idiopathic head tremors, many dental issues, a serious spinal defect, parvovirus, the list goes on.

Behavioural issues

We would recommend insurance coverage that includes behavioural issues. We give the fullest picture we can of each dog, but is impossible to be completely sure that they don’t have other issues, unnoticed at the refuge or even in foster,  which may surface in their new lives.  

We are always here for advice and support but we are rescuers and not behaviourists, and also we have generally never met the dogs nor the adopters themselves, making it hard for us to advise beyond general, commonly found issues.  We always recommend a session with a behaviourist as soon as the dog is settled, or sooner in case of particular problems beyond the normal issues of settling in. 

 Behavioural issues will be covered in another section .