Leptospirosis is a disease typically seen in dogs but can easily be transmitted to their loving owners. Our Poway vets are here to discuss the symptoms you need to look out for, and tips to protect your pet.
What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is a disease that can harm your dog, farm animals, and even your family's health. It happens when a bacterium is known as Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance through contact with urine. We've also seen cases of leptospirosis in cats, which prey on host animals like 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 gradually spread into areas of the United States.
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be passed from animals to humans. People, like dogs, can get leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets. The majority of human leptospirosis outbreaks are caused by contact with contaminated water.
How do dogs develop leptospirosis?
Every pet is at risk of catching leptospirosis, regardless of where they live in the world (urban, suburban or rural areas). The following factors can increase your pet's risk:
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your backyard
- Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
- 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 the symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis symptoms 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
Testing For Leprospirosis
Microscopic Agglutination Test: This is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, and it detects the presence of anti-Leptospira antibodies in the dog's blood. If the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is high enough, infection is confirmed.
Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs
Preventing leptospirosis, like many other diseases, is far more beneficial than treating it. If your dog hasn't been immunized against this disease, talk to your vet about whether it's a good idea for your dog's lifestyle.
The chances 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 Best Friends Veterinary Hospital offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine 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, avoid touching your dog's urine with your bare skin and always wash your hands after petting them. When cleaning any areas that your dog may have soiled, use rubber gloves and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. One of the most effective ways to disinfect your home is to use a diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant.
Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, which can also prevent other members of your household from becoming infected.