Applications in veterinary medicine
The use of leeches in veterinary medicine has been widespread since ancient times, but it seems that the lack of documentation relative to the precise use of annelids may be partly responsible for their low level of use in this field today. Yet the applications of leeches may be similar to those in human medicine.
The majority of applications of leeches in human medicine are also valid in veterinary medicine. Thus, for example, they are indicated in the same way for the treatment of thrombosis, phlebitis, boils, haemorrhoids, haematomas, oedema, tendinitis, etc. They can also be used in surgery in the event of tissue transplants.
Some documents demonstrate that they are predominantly used in horses, as well as in feline and canine species. They have been used for bleeding purposes, particularly when the vessels are very fine, in the treatment of mastitis and gastritis in dogs and in ophthalmia, lymphangitis and congestion in horses.
The number of leeches depends on the size and disease of the animal. Hence 1 leech is recommended on animals weighing less than 10 kg, 1 to 2 on animals weighing 10-15 kg, 3-4 on animals weighing 30-40 kg and between 5 and 15 on a horse.
The leech site on the skin must be prepared: shaving and cleaning of the skin with water. Stimulation of the skin can be very helpful during application to animals, which is sometimes tricky. When it bites, the leech injects an analgesic substance, but despite this a slight burning sensation may occur and animals must therefore be soothed.
The contraindications are also similar to those in human medicine: anaemic animals and those with coagulation problems.
Recent articles refer to the use of leeches in veterinary medicine.
Leeches are used in the case of engorged blood vessels – such as acute laminitis in horses. Over a period of 8 months, Doctor Sagiv BEN-YAKIR’s team tested this method on 4 horses affected by this condition. Four leeches were placed on each leg affected. After 12 hours of treatment, the horses’ behaviour returned to normal.
Auditory haematomas in dogs, swollen testicles, laryngitis, rectal prolapse, uterine prolapse in cattle and vulvar inflammation can also be treated using medicinal leeches.
Leeches are used in the treatment of problems such as inflammation and venous and peripheral arterial diseases, such as feline aortic thromboembolism.
They can also be used in the treatment of acute and chronic inflammatory responses of the oral mucosa and periodontal lesions, such as in the case of HIV-positive cats with severe stomatitis, gingivitis and salivary gland diseases, such as sialitis and sialoadenitis.
Their use is also recommended in inflammatory contexts of the genital system, such as endometriosis and genital organ dysfunction in post-surgical rehabilitation and in the rehabilitation of animals having had complications such as septicaemia following parturition and to reduce oedema of the scrotum following a castration procedure in adult dogs.