Commonly called "Lepto," this flu-like disease caused by bacteria can be potentially fatal if not treated. Vaccination is one vital step needed to protect your pets and your family.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties and now suburban properties too (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); and contact with rodents or other dogs. Dogs can become infected and develop leptospirosis if their mucous membranes (or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape) come into contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by eating infected tissues or carcasses; and rarely, through breeding. It can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies. Signs of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), or painful inflammation within the eyes. The disease can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure. Dogs may occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing. Leptospirosis can cause bleeding disorders, which can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots (which may be visible on the gums and other mucous membranes or on light-colored skin). Affected dogs can also develop swollen legs (from fluid accumulation) or accumulate excess fluid in their chest or abdomen. Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage.
We now recommend annual vaccination for all dogs now.
Cathy-Licensed Vet tech with 28 year experience.