Dog Health 101: Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis—commonly referred to as “lepto” by veterinarians, is a flu-like disease that affects pets, particularly dogs. If not treated in time, the disease can become deadly. Lepto is a spiral-shaped bacterium that spreads through contact with an infected wild or domestic animal’s urine. 

In the bacteria are several different strains or types of leptospira that can affect your dog and you. Mice, rats, opossums, and raccoons are the usual suspects when it comes to trying to figure out how the disease spreads. 

Lepto bacteria can be found in contaminated soil and stagnant water. It can survive for weeks to months at a time and if your dog (and cat) comes into contact with the contaminated soil or water, the bacteria can enter their system and symptoms may begin to show within 7 to 14 days. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can quickly spread to your pet’s liver, spleen and kidneys.

Symptoms commonly associated with Lepto are: 

Fever
Vomiting
Abdominal pain
Diarrhea
Lack of appetite
Severe weakness and/or muscle pain
Excessive water consumption or refusal to drink
Jaundice
Depression
Stiffness

Treating Leptospirosis

Your veterinarian will test and be able to diagnose if your pet has been exposed to leptospirosis and has the disease. The treatment that follows is often immediate to prevent kidney and liver failure. Fluids and antibiotics are commonly given. Typically younger pets are affected by leptospirosis but any pet at any age is vulnerable to it. 

If you are planning on hikes in your national park, camping trips, or just live in a town where there are reported cases of leptospirosis, consider vaccinating your pet against the disease. 

Other ways to protect your pet can range from keeping rodent problems under control around your house, checking your dog’s paws and belly after a walk and wiping her down, and discouraging your pet from drinking from puddles and stagnant pools of water. 

Consult your veterinarian for more information on leptospirosis and whether or not your dog or cat would benefit from the vaccine.

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