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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?

While leptospirosis poses a significant risk to dogs in Denver, it can also be transmitted to their caring owners. Our vets are here to discuss the symptoms you must 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 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 bacterium has been reported in numerous locations but is most prevalent in regions characterized by warm climates and high rainfall. According to research, the disease has gradually extended its presence into areas of the United States, including Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Humans can contract leptospirosis from tainted water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets, just as pets can. It's essential to be aware that the majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are linked to contact with contaminated water sources.

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 method serves as the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, as it effectively identifies the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's bloodstream. Infection is confirmed when the antibody level, referred to as a "titer," reaches a significant threshold.

Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs

As is often the case with various illnesses, taking proactive measures to prevent leptospirosis is significantly more advantageous than treating it after the fact. If your dog has not yet received immunization against this disease, we strongly recommend consulting with your veterinarian to determine its suitability for your pet'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 Pets on Broadway Animal Hospital offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our dog vaccine schedule. 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 its lifetime.

Leptospirosis can pose a risk to human health as well. If you suspect your dog may have contracted the disease, avoiding direct skin contact with their urine is essential. Always practice thorough hand hygiene after interacting with your pet. When cleaning areas soiled by your dog, use rubber gloves and disinfect these spaces diligently. Employing a diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant is among the most effective methods to maintain a hygienic environment within 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.

Do you suspect that your dog may have been exposed to leptospirosis? Contact our veterinary staff right away to arrange an appointment for your beloved canine companion. 

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