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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a harmful disease caused by a kind of bacteria that's most commonly transmitted via water and soil contaminated with infected urine. Our Statesboro vets explain what leptospirosis in dogs is, as well as how it's diagnosed and treated. 

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Assume that a bacterium known as Leptospira, which is widespread in water and soil, contaminates a substance through urine contact. In this instance, the bacteria can spread to animals and members of your household, causing leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is also present in cats, which feed on host animals such as rodents. 

While it's possible for this bacteria and the disease to be found anywhere, it's proven to be more commonly seen in warmer areas that experience higher levels of rainfall. 

Since leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, livestock, wild animals and other pets. Most leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water. 

How is leptospirosis in dogs transmitted?

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to any pet regardless of where they live. Some factors that may increase your pet's risk of contracting the disease are:

  • Exposure to or drinking from puddles, rivers, lakes or streams 
  • Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that can pass infected urine, even in your backyard 
  • Contact with rodents, such as rates or squirrels, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, urban areas or facilities where multiple dogs are housed) 

What are the most common symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?

Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of leptospirosis 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

How is leptospirosis in dogs diagnosed?

Microscopic Agglutination Test: This test is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis because it detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's blood. If the antibody level (known as a "titer") is high enough, infection is confirmed.

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 chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis, if the disease is found early enough, are exceptional — the survival rate in these circumstances 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 Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 9 and 11 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 transmitted to humans, if you suspect your dog is infected, you should avoid touching their urine with bare skin and wash your hands thoroughly after petting them. Put on rubber gloves and disinfect any areas where your dog has defecated or defecated. One of the best ways to disinfect 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.

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.

Is your dog due for the leptospirosis vaccine, or are you concerned about symptoms of this disease? Contact us today to book a vaccination appointment for your pooch.

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

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