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What is Leptospirosis in Dogs?

What is Leptospirosis in Dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease that is usually seen in dogs but can be spread from dogs to people. Today, our Walnut Creek vets talk about the symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs and how you can prevent it.

Leptospirosis In Dogs

Leptospirosis is a disease that can threaten the health of dogs, farm animals, and humans. It occurs when a bacterium known as Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world), contaminates a substance through contact with urine. Leptospirosis has also been seen in cats that feed on host animals like rodents.

This bacteria has been detected almost everywhere, however, it is more common in warmer climates that get lots of 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 spread from animals to humans. Just like dogs, people can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets. Most outbreaks of leptospirosis in humans are from contact with contaminated water.

Causes of Leptospirosis In Dogs

All pets are at risk of catching leptospirosis, regardless of where they live. The following factors can put your dog at a higher risk:

  • Exposure to or drinking water from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
  • Contact with rodents, such as squirrels, rats, or other dogs (in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed, or urban areas)
  • Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your backyard

Signs & Symptoms of Leptospirosis In Dogs

The symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs include:

  • Decreased appetite or not eating
  • Increased drinking and/or urination
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering or fever
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, or reluctance to move
  • Conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
  • Inability to have puppies

How Dogs Are Tested For Leptospirosis 

Microscopic Agglutination Test: This is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, and it detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in a dog's blood. Your vet will confirm your dog's case of leptospirosis if the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is high enough.

Treating & Preventing Leptospirosis in Dogs

As with many other diseases, it's much better to prevent leptospirosis than to treat it. If your dog hasn't been vaccinated for this disease, ask your veterinarian about the leptospirosis vaccination. 

The chance of a dog surviving leptospirosis is approximately 80% if the disease is found early enough. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely impaired. This is why it's better to prevent the disease by vaccinating your dog.

Our vets at Ygnacio Animal Hospital can provide your dog with the leptospirosis vaccine when they are between 10 and 12 weeks old as part of our dog vaccination schedule. After your pup has been given their primary leptospirosis vaccination, they will need to get a booster shot three to four weeks later. Following this, your dog will need to be vaccinated annually to stay protected.

Since leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, if you think your dog is infected, do your best not to touch their urine with your bare skin and always wash your hands after petting your furry friend. 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.

Contact our Walnut Creek vets today to schedule your dog's leptospirosis vaccination.

New Patients Welcome

Ygnacio Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Walnut Creek companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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