Leptospirosis: What All Dog Owners Need To Know


Leptospirosis may sound like the name of an obscure plant or a town in the desert, but, in fact, it is a disease that you should be concerned about as a dog owner. Though leptospirosis can infect many different species, it is a particular threat to dogs, and it is a condition which all dog owners should take actions to prevent. Here's a closer look at what you need to know about this often-deadly bacterial infection.

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. The bacteria live in the bloodstream and can easily be passed through the body to the kidneys, joints, liver, and other organs. For this reason, it causes a whole array of symptoms including:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Alternating shivering and panting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Weakness and profound fatigue
  • Yelping when the belly is touched
  • Stiffness in certain joints
  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody diarrhea)
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes and mucous membranes)
  • Coughing and wheezing while breathing

How is leptospirosis passed on, and why are dogs at a particular risk?

Leptospirosis can infect humans, cats, raccoons, rats, and an array of other mammals. However, dogs are at a higher risk of the condition than humans because they're more likely to come into contact with bodily fluids from an infected animal. They may bite a rat or lick feces or urine from a rat that carried leptospriosis. They may come into contact with a raccoon or another dog that has the infection, too. Skunks and opossums are big carriers of leptospirosis, and it's not uncommon for dogs to tangle with them in the backyard or while on a walk in the woods!

You're a lot less likely to drink from a puddle, bite a rat, or lick the ground than a dog, which is why you're less likely to acquire leprospirosis -- assuming you follow standard hygiene practices like washing your hands and food.

Can dogs with leprospirosis be treated?

Leptospirosis is treatable, but some dogs do pass away from the illness, particularly when it is not detected and treated early on. If you suspect your dog may have this disease, it's important to take them to the vet right away. Treatment includes antibiotics, such as tetracycline, along with fluids to re-hydrate your dog. Your vet will need to check for organ failure, since kidney or liver failure can often turn leptospirosis deadly. Chances are that your dog will need to be hospitalized for at least a few days so the vet can administer medications intravenously. It may then be a month or more before your dog fully recovers at home.

How can you prevent leptospirosis?

The easiest way to protect your dog from this disease is by having them vaccinated. All dogs that spend time outside unsupervised should receive dog vaccinations. If you walk your dog in the woods, even if only on a leash, the vaccination is a good idea since your dog may still sniff and lick contaminated feces and urine from wild animals.

Since no vaccine is 100% effective, you should still take other measures to protect your dog from leprospirosis:

  1. Do not allow him to drink from puddles. Keep your backyard well drained so puddles do not develop and tempt him to drink.
  2. Take steps to keep rats out of your home, such as plugging small holes in your foundation and keeping food well contained.
  3. If you have pests like opossums or raccoons living in your yard, take steps to get rid of them.

To learn more about leptospirosis and the vaccine for this disease, talk to your dog's veterinarian. And always call your vet promptly if you suspect your dog may have become infected! 


2 October 2017

Giving Pets The Care They Deserve

Hello everyone. My name is Vern Mitchell. Welcome to my website about pet care. When I was a young kid, I helped the neighborhood families take care of their pets during the vacation season. As my neighbors went on their trips, I would go by their houses to feed and play with their pets. Throughout this journey, I learned about the care techniques required for almost every step of pet. On this website, I would like to help others understand how to care for pets of all kinds. Thank you for coming by my website about pet care. Come back soon!