Leptospirosis is a harmful disease caused by a type of bacteria that is most commonly transmitted through water and soil contaminated with infected urine. Our Jackson vets discuss what leptospirosis in dogs is as well as how it is diagnosed and treated.
What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, which can cause a disease that can spread to animals as well as family members. It happens when a bacterium called Leptospira (which is found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance by coming into contact with urine. We've also seen leptospirosis cases in cats, which prey on host animals like rodents.
While it is possible for this bacteria and disease to be found everywhere, it has been proven to be more commonly seen in areas that are warmer and experience higher levels of rainfall.
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets, just like pets. The majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water.
How is leptospirosis in dogs transmitted?
Leptospirosis is able to be transmitted to any pet regardless of where they live. Some of the factors that can increase your pet's risk of contracting the disease are:
- 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 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 chance 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 Northside Animal Clinic 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 passed on to humans, if you suspect your dog is infected, avoid touching their urine with your bare skin and wash your hands after petting them. When cleaning any areas that your dog has soiled, use rubber gloves and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. One of the most effective methods of disinfecting 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.