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A Comprehensive Guide to Dog Leptospirosis

The rising incidence of leptospirosis in dogs poses a threat not only to the health of our canine companions but also to us. Thankfully there is a way to protect your pup against lepto. Our Santa Cruz County vets explain.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease seen in pets and people that occurs when a bacterium known as Leptospira (found in water and soil all over the world) contaminates a substance (such as soil) through contact with urine. We've also seen cases of leptospirosis in cats, which feed on host animals such as mice.

This bacteria has been reported almost everywhere, but it 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.

While this bacteria can be found anywhere, it is more commonly found in warmer climates with more rain. According to research, the disease has gradually spread into the Western United States, including Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. This disease appears to have made its way into Tennessee, as our Santa Cruz County vets have recently seen a significant increase in cases.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets, just like pets. The majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water.

How is leptospirosis spread?

Leptospirosis is a real health risk to all animals and people, 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 most common symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?

If your dog has leptospirosis they may show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • 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

How is leptospirosis diagnosed in dogs?

A Microscopic agglutination test is your vet's best bet when it comes to diagnosing leptospirosis. This laboratory test detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's blood. Infection is confirmed if the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is elevated.

Can I protect my dog against leptospirosis?

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.

The chance of a dog surviving leptospirosis, if the disease is found early enough, is around 80%. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely impaired. Thus, it's always best to prevent the disease with vaccination.

Our vets at Aptos-Creekside Pet 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, if you suspect your dog is infected, avoid touching their urine with your bare skin and always wash your hands after petting them. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas that your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. Using a diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant is one of the best ways to disinfect your home.

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.

Protect your dog against leptospirosis. Contact our Santa Cruz County vets today to book a vaccine appointment for your four-legged friend. 

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Aptos-Creekside Pet Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Cruz County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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