An infection with leptospira bacteria causes leptospirosis, a serious illness which leads to flu-like symptoms and can also damage the kidneys and liver. Leptospirosis affects dogs and other mammals. A zoonotic disease, leptospirosis can be transferred between species. If your pet becomes infected, your dog could transfer the disease to you.
A spiral-shaped bacterium, leptospira thrive in water, moisture, and wet environments. Rats and other rodents are common carriers of the disease, and infected animals shed the bacteria through urine. Dogs can become infected by digging in areas where infected wild animals have urinated, ingesting garbage contaminated by rodents, swimming in contaminated water, or by tampering with the carcass of an infected wild animal. When pets contract leptospirosis, humans are at risk of infection through contact with their pets’ urine.
Leptospirosis does not always cause symptoms. When present, however, symptoms resemble those of a severe flu, including:
- High fever
- Appetite loss/changes
Untreated leptospirosis can lead to permanent kidney and liver damage, organ failure, and death.
Leptospirosis Treatment and Prevention
As with most diseases, the best form of treatment is prevention. You can protect your dog and family from the unpleasant symptoms and risk factors of leptospirosis by having your dogs vaccinated annually.
If you suspect your dog has leptospirosis, schedule a veterinary appointment immediately. Infection can be detected through a blood test which looks for leptospira antibodies. If your dog tests positive, the disease can usually be treated with a simple course of strong antibiotics.
During your pet’s leptospirosis treatment, you should take careful measures to prevent your environment from becoming contaminated with leptospira bacteria. Ensure your pet urinates in an area free from standing water and away from places other pets, animals, and family members frequent. If your pet urinates inside your home, wear gloves while cleaning up and use a strong household cleaner to eradicate the bacteria. Always wash your hands after handling a pet infected with leptospirosis. After completing antibiotic treatment, your pet will require another blood test to ensure the infection has cleared.
Schedule a Wellness Appointment with Old Orchard Animal Clinic
You can protect your furry family member and your human family members from leptospirosis by vaccinating your pets annually. If your dog frequents areas where other animals and rodents also roam, enjoys swimming in natural bodies of water, digs in the dirt, or can’t resist rummaging through a trash can, your pet could be at risk of contracting leptospirosis and exposing your entire family to this serious illness. Contact our office to schedule a wellness exam and talk to our veterinarian about a leptospirosis vaccination for your dog.