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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?

Leptospirosis is a hazardous illness that can affect dogs in certain areas. However, it can also spread to their caring owners. Our veterinarians are available to advise you on the signs to watch for and how to safeguard your pet.

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a dangerous illness that poses a threat to your pets, livestock, and even your family's well-being. It is caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira, which is present in water and soil across the globe. The disease spreads when this bacterium comes in contact with urine and contaminates a surface. Cats that hunt and consume prey animals like rodents are also at risk of contracting leptospirosis.

This bacteria has been reported almost everywhere but 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 that can be passed from animals to humans. Humans can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and pets. The main cause of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans is contact with contaminated water.

How Do Dogs Develop Leptospirosis?

Regardless of living in urban, suburban, or rural areas, every pet is susceptible to catching leptospirosis. Certain factors can elevate the risk for your pet:

  • 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 is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, and it detects 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.

Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs

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.

Dogs who contract leptospirosis have a survival rate of about 80% if the disease is discovered early. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely affected. The best solution for contagious diseases like this is always prevention.

Our vets at Lake Norman at Mooresville 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.

To prevent the spread of leptospirosis from dogs to humans, take precautions such as avoiding direct contact with their urine. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly after petting them, wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas that your dog may have soiled, and disinfect these areas to prevent contamination. A diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant can be used effectively to disinfect your home.

Prescription antibiotics can be used to treat Leptospirosis and help prevent transmission to other household members.

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.

Are you concerned that your dog might have contracted leptospirosis? Contact our vets at Mooresville right away to schedule an appointment for your beloved canine companion. 

New Patients Welcome

Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of cats, dogs and exotic pets. Book your pet's first appointment today.

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