What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Suppose a bacterium known as Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance through contact with urine. In this case, the bacteria can spread to animals and your family members, and cause the disease we know as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is also seen in cats, which feed on host animals such as rodents.
While it's possible for this bacteria and the disease to be found anywhere, it's proven to be more commonly seen in warmer areas that experience higher levels of rainfall.
Since leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, livestock, wild animals and other pets. Most leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water.
How is leptospirosis in dogs transmitted?
Leptospirosis can be transmitted to any pet regardless of where they live. Some factors that may increase your pet's risk of contracting the disease are:
- Exposure to or drinking from puddles, rivers, lakes or streams
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that can pass infected urine, even in your backyard
- Contact with rodents, such as rates or squirrels, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, urban areas or facilities where multiple dogs are housed)
What are the most common symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?
Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs include:
- 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
How is leptospirosis in dogs diagnosed?
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.
How is leptospirosis in dogs prevented & treated?
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 chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis, if the disease is found early enough, are exceptional — the survival rate in these circumstances 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 Companion Pet Clinic of Arizona offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 9 and 11 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.