Leptospirosis- Are you & your pet at risk?

Jun 27, 2019

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that has worldwide prevalence and whose prevalence has been increasing in the southeast region over time. Leptospirosis (or ‘lepto’ for short) is spread via contaminated soil and water. 

Common risk factors for dogs that are most likely to acquire the disease are dogs that drink from rivers, lakes, and streams,  dogs that have exposure to wildlife or farm animals (wildlife can come through your backyard!), and contact with rodents and other dogs.

Lepto is most often spread through urine contamination.  If mucus membranes or abraded skin become exposed to contaminated water, infected urine or urine-contaminated soil/bedding/food, bite wounds from an infected animal, or sometimes through breeding. 

Some infected dogs may not show any signs of illness, others may have a transient fever and clear the infection on their own, and others may have fever, lethargy, shivering, increased thirst and urination, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice or a combination of any signs listed. 

Leptospirosis infection is commonly treated with antibiotics and supportive care but if not caught early or undetected, the infection can result in permanent liver or kidney damage, and sometimes death. 

There are several different strains of leptospirosis that can cause disease, but thankfully, the most common strains can be vaccinated for.  This is most important because while it can cause potentially fatal disease in dogs, Leptospirosis can also be passed from dogs to humans, making vaccination of your pets a preventative public health concern.  In humans, the disease causes flu-like symptoms and liver and kidney disease. 

Vaccination should be considered for all at-risk dogs.  Vaccination is yearly after the initial 2-vaccine booster series.  Please ask about risk factors and whether your dog should be vaccinated for this potentially deadly infection at your next appointment.

Dr. Stacy Logsdon