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Leptospirosis in Dogs: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Leptospirosis in Dogs: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Although leptospirosis is a dangerous disease seen in some Redding dogs, it can also be transmitted to their loving owners. Our vets are here to discuss the symptoms you need to look out for, and tips to protect your pet.

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a disease that can harm your dogs, farm animals, and even your family's health. It occurs when a bacterium is 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 (aka. a zoonotic disease). People can be infected with 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 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:

  • Vomiting
  • Shivering or fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Increased drinking and/or urination
  • Decreased appetite or not eating
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • 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

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.

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.

Our vets at Dana Park Veterinary Hospital offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. After their initial leptospirosis shot, they will require a booster 3-4 weeks later. Afterward, annual vaccines will be required to protect your dog throughout their lifetime.

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.

Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, which can also protect other household members from transmission. 

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.

Are you concerned that your dog might have contracted leptospirosis? Contact our compassionate veterinary staff right away to schedule an appointment for your beloved canine companion. 

New Patients Welcome

Dana Park Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Redding companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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