While out and about in the world, dogs can pick up a number of conditions including some more serious diseases such as leptospirosis. Here, our Clinton Township vets share some of the common ways that a dog can pick up the bacteria responsible for leptospirosis, the symptoms and how you can help protect your canine companion.
Leptospirosis in Dogs
Leptospirosis is a serious medical condition that can affect all types of animals including humans. It occurs when a bacterium known as Leptospira (found in water and soil worldwide) contaminates a substance through contact with urine. There are also cases of leptospirosis in cats that hunt and feed 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 slowly spread into areas of the United States such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
Leptospirosis can be transmitted from animals to humans (a zoonotic disease). People can be infected with leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets, just like pets. Contaminated water is the most common cause of leptospirosis in people.
How is leptospirosis in dogs contracted?
All dogs are at risk of developing leptospirosis, regardless of where they live in the world (urban, suburban or rural areas). Some of the factors that may increase that risk include:
- 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)
Symptoms of Leptospirosis In Dogs
When leptospirosis has been contracted, some of the symptoms in dogs may 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 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
Like many other conditions, leptospirosis is easier to prevent than it is to treat. 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.
You may be wondering what the chance is of a dog surviving leptospirosis. If the disease is discovered early enough, dogs that have contracted leptospirosis have a survival rate of about 80%. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely impaired. Prevention will always be the most effective remedy for contagious diseases of this type.
To help prevent leptospirosis, our vets at Snider Veterinary Services can give your dog a vaccine between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. After their initial leptospirosis shot, your dog will need a booster shot approximately four weeks after the initial vaccination. They will then need to continue receiving a booster shot every year to help ensure the efficacy of the vaccine.
Since leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, if you think your dog may have been infected you must avoid letting your bare skin come into contact with their urine. 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.
If your dog contracts leptospirosis, they will be given antibiotics which will help to treat their condition and protect the other members of the household.
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.