Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease seen in dogs, humans, and other animals, resulting in damage to the kidneys and liver and/or death. Today, our Fountain Valley vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of leptospirosis in dogs.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can negatively impact the long-term health of your dogs, farm animals, and even your family members. It occurs when the bacterium Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance via contact with an infected animal's urine. Cats are often infected when they consume infected animals such as rodents.
This bacteria has been reported almost everywhere, but it is most commonly found in warmer climates with high rainfall. According to research, this disease has slowly spread into areas of the United States such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets, just like pets. The majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water.
Causes of Leptospirosis in Dogs
All pets are at risk of contracting leptospirosis, regardless of where they live. So whether you live in the country or a hectic city, your pets are at risk of catching this disease. That said, several factors increase your dog's risk of contracting leptospirosis, including:
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your backyard
- Drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
- Contact with rodents, such as mice, chipmunks, squirrels, or rats
- Contact with other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed, or urban areas)
Signs of Leptospirosis in Dogs
If your dog has leptospirosis you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Shivering or fever
- Increased drinking and/or urination
- Decreased appetite or not eating
- Conjunctivitis (red eye)
- Inability to have puppies
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
- Muscle pain, stiffness, or reluctance to move
Testing for Leprospirosis
Microscopic Agglutination Test: This is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, and it detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's blood. Infection is confirmed if the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is high enough.
Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs
As with many other diseases, preventing leptospirosis is far more beneficial than treating it. If your dog hasn't been immunized against this disease, consult with your veterinarian to see if it's a good idea for your dog's lifestyle.
The chance of a dog surviving leptospirosis, if the disease is found early enough, is around 80%. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely impaired. Thus, it's always best to prevent the disease with vaccination.
Our vets at Brookfield Pet Hospital Plus offer the leptospirosis dog vaccination between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. After their primary leptospirosis vaccination, they will require a booster shot three to four weeks later. Beyond that, annual vaccines will be required to protect your dog throughout its lifetime.
Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, if you suspect your dog is infected, avoid touching their urine with your bare skin and always wash your hands after petting them. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas that your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. Using a diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant is one of the best ways to disinfect your home.
Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, which can also prevent other members of your household from becoming infected.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.