What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is a disease that affects dogs, farm and wild animals along with people. Caused by the bacteria Leptospira, which can be found worldwide in soil and water that’s been contaminated with infected urine.
While this bacteria can occur anywhere, it is more common in warm climates with high annual rainfall. Studies indicate the disease has gradually spread to the Western United States, including Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to people. Similar to pets, people can also catch leptospirosis from contaminated sources of water, wild animals, livestock and pets. Most outbreaks of leptospirosis in humans are due to exposure to contaminated water.
How can my dog contract leptospirosis?
Every dog is at risk of developing leptospirosis, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area. Common risk factors include:
- Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers or puddles
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your own backyard
- Contact with rodents, such as squirrels or rats, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed or urban areas)
What are signs of leptospirosis in dogs?
Common signs of leptospirosis in dogs include:
- Decreased appetite or not eating
- Shivering or fever
- Increased drinking and/or urination
- Conjunctivitis (red eye)
- Muscle pain, stiffness or reluctance to move
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
Prevention & Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs
Similar to many other diseases, it’s always better to prevent leptospirosis than to treat it. If your pet has never had a vaccine for this disease, ask your vet when and if your dog should have one based on your pet’s risks and options.
Our vets at Companion Pet Clinic of Arizona offer the leptospirosis vaccine for puppies between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. We’ll need to see your pooch again for a vaccine booster three to four weeks after the initial shot. Revaccinating annually is often required to maintain best immunity.
Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, owners of dogs that may have had the disease should avoid touching their dog’s urine with bare skin and wash hands after petting the dog. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your pup has urinated. You can use a diluted bleach solution or household disinfectant to kill the organism.
Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, which can prevent other members of your household from becoming infected.