Recent studies suggest that asymptomatic dogs infected with canine visceral leishmaniasis (CVL) develop a Th1 immunological profile whilst oligosymptomatic and symptomatic CVL-infected animals present a Th2 profile. In the present study, an RT-PCR method has been standardised and employed to evaluate the frequency and the semi-quantitative level of expression of the cytokines IL-4, IL-10, IL-12, INF-gamma and TNF-alpha in splenocytes of 30 dogs naturally infected with Leishmania chagasi and of 7 non-infected dogs (NID). An increase in the level of expression of IL-12 (p=0.059) was detected in all CVL-infected dogs compared with NID. In dogs exhibiting high parasitism, the frequency of expression of IL-10 was higher (p=0.011) than in animals presenting low parasitism or medium parasitism (MP) and in NID animals, whilst the level of expression of IL-10 was higher (p=0.0094) than in animals exhibiting MP and in the NID group. Positive correlations between the levels of expression of IL-10 with respect to the progression of the disease (IL-10: r=0.3510; p=0.0337) and the levels of expression of IL-10 and INF-gamma increase in parasitism (IL-10: r=0.3428; p=0.0438 and INF-gamma: r=0.4690; p=0.0045) were observed. Such data suggest that CVL is marked by a balanced production of Th1 and Th2 cytokines, with a predominant accumulation of IL-10 as a consequence of an increase in parasitic load and progression of the disease, and INF-gamma was related with the increase in parasitic load.