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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Recently, our Kay Animal Hospital has seen an alarming increase in cases of dog leptospirosis. This disease is most commonly seen in dogs, but it is easily transmitted to their caring owners. Our Douglasville veterinarians are available to discuss the symptoms to look out for and how to protect your pet.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease that can harm the health of your dog, farm animals, and even your family members. It occurs when a bacterium known as Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance after coming into contact with urine. We've also seen leptospirosis cases in cats that prey on host animals, such as rodents.

This bacteria has been found almost everywhere, but it is most common in warmer climates with a lot of rain. According to research, this disease has gradually spread into states such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can be passed from animals to humans. Leptospirosis can be contracted from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets. Contact with contaminated water causes the vast majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans.

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 is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis, and it detects the presence of anti-Leptospira antibodies in the dog's blood. If the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is high enough, infection is confirmed.

Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs

Preventing leptospirosis, like many other diseases, is far more beneficial than treating it. If your dog hasn't been immunized against this disease, talk to your vet about whether it's a good idea for your dog's lifestyle.

If leptospirosis is detected early enough, a dog's chances of survival are around 80%. Their kidney and liver function, on the other hand, can be severely compromised. As a result, it is always preferable to prevent the disease through vaccination.

Our vets at Kay Animal Hospital offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 10 and 12 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, never touch your dog's urine with bare skin and always wash your hands after petting them. When cleaning up after your dog, wear rubber gloves and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. One of the most effective ways to disinfect your home is with 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.

Contact our Douglasville vets today to have your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis.

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At Kay Animal Hospital, we can't wait to welcome you and your four-legged friend into our veterinary family. Learn more about the services we offer and the difference our care and compassion make by booking your first appointment today!

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