What All Dog Owners Need to Know About Canine Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis has been well documented over the last century. Despite our understanding, the disease continues to affect all mammals (although it’s rare in cats). Clusters or hotspots commonly occur outside of Maine, but canine leptospirosis is ubiquitous, and it’s a zoonotic disease. That’s why it remains an absolute priority that your dog – and the people around them – are protected from this bacterial infection.
In the Elements
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by numerous strains of the bacteria leptospira. Typically found in contaminated water or soil, leptospirosis can also be passed on through direct contact with an infected animal.
Cases of canine leptospirosis may result after drinking from a contaminated water source, like a puddle or a shared water bowl at the dog park. Urine from an infected animal can pass the disease, and a dog can pick up the bacteria from practically anything on the ground outside.
Leptospira can remain in the environment for many weeks. Infections occur when a dog’s mucous membranes come into contact with the bacteria. However, having an open wound or cut, getting bitten by an infected animal, or eating infected tissue can pass the disease. Unborn puppies can also become infected through their mother’s placenta.
While the northeast has fewer cases than the southern and midwestern states, canine leptospirosis is still prevalent in Maine. Owner awareness is key to lowering the incidence of this terrible disease.
The Good Work
While wild animals are primarily responsible for shedding the bacteria and contaminating the environment, there are things you can do to prevent canine leptospirosis:
- Maintain current vaccinations (the canine leptospirosis vaccine can effectively protect your dog for 12 months).
- Prohibit your dog from licking up any standing water.
- Do not allow them to hop into still bodies of water (any open wounds or scratches are a potential entry point for the bacteria).
- Limit all possible chances of exposure (break up any fights with other animals, etc.).
Canine Leptospirosis Symptoms
Several factors can influence the symptoms of canine leptospirosis, such as the strain of bacteria, the dog’s immune system response, and the organs affected. However, common signs include:
- Decreased appetite/weight loss
- Muscle pain or tenderness
- Reluctance to move around
- Dehydration (although sometimes dogs will drink excessive water and over-urinate)
- Jaundice (yellow-looking eyes or skin)
Canine leptospirosis should be diagnosed and treated right away. A Lepto test, complete blood count, chemistry panel, and urinalysis are all required for confirmation.
Hospitalization, IV fluid therapy, and antibiotics may be necessary. Because canine leptospirosis can cause renal failure and vascular collapse, it’s necessary to seek emergency care. This disease can be fatal if left untreated.
People can get leptospirosis from the environment or through exposure to their infected dog’s urine. If your dog ever needs treatment for canine leptospirosis, it’s imperative that you adhere to strict sanitation guidelines. Wash your hands after handling an infected pet or cleaning up after them. Isolation may be required if you live in a multi-pet home.