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Leptospirosis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

Leptospirosis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

Leptospirosis is a disease found in a wide variety of places all over the world, and although typically seen in dogs it can also be transmitted to their loving owners. Our Newtown vets are here to discuss the symptoms you need to look for, and tips to protect your pet.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease that can harm the health of your dog, your other household pets, farm animals, and even your family. It occurs 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 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 is a zoonotic disease, which means it is transmissible 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 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 (e.g. squirrels, rats) or other dogs in environments like dog parks, multi-dog facilities, 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, since it's able to detect 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.

Prevention & Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs

As with many other diseases, prevention is far more beneficial than treatment when it comes to leptospirosis. If your dog hasn't been immunized against this disease, consult your veterinarian to see if it's a good idea for your dog's unique case and lifestyle.

If detected early enough, the chance of a dog surviving leptospirosis is around 80%; however, they can also experience severe kidney and liver damage. Thus, it's always best to prevent the disease with vaccination.

Your primary vet is likely to offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine for puppies between 10 - 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. After their primary leptospirosis vaccination, your dog 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 is transmissible to humans, it's important to avoid touching your dog's urine with bare skin if you suspect they might be infected with leptospirosis or another contagious illness. 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, but ensure yourself, your family, your dog and any other pets are out of harm's way (including breathing harmful fumes)

Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, which can also prevent other members of your household from becoming infected.

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.

Our Newtown vet team is here to provide support and care for your beloved canine companion. Get in touch today if you have concerns about leptospirosis or to discuss treatment options. 

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