Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that animals can acquire it and pass it to humans, and vice versa. Fortunately, this is rare. It’s also rare for this disease to affect cats as it is far more prevalent in the canine population. Genus leptospira, for which the disease is named, is a group of complex bacteria responsible for making dogs ill. One of the most common places to find this bacteria is in standing bodies of water such as ponds.
How Dogs Acquire the Bacterial Infection for Leptospirosis
Once your dog has picked up the bacteria that causes this illness, it will remain in his body until he sheds it by urinating. The most common methods of contamination include:
- Exposure to the urine of another dog or infected wild animal, by digging in soil or by sharing bedding materials
- Drinking bacteria-filled water
- Eating tissues of an animal that already has the infection
- A bite from another dog or wild animal who actively carries the virus
The leptospirosis bacteria can spread to different parts of your dog’s body. While most dogs have strong enough immunity to partially fight the infection, it’s usually not strong enough to prevent transmission to the kidneys. This causes significant health issues that require prompt medical intervention.
The specific strain of bacteria, the age of your dog, and whether she has received a vaccination against leptospirosis determine whether the infection will be mild, moderate, or severe. Because severe cases can turn fatal without the proper care, we encourage you to schedule an immediate appointment with Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Joint or muscle pain that makes movement difficult
- Increased urination
- Decreased appetite
Treating and Preventing Leptospirosis
After learning more about your dog’s symptoms, our veterinarians will need to do some blood and urine tests to confirm a diagnosis of Leptospirosis. Once a diagnosis is obtained, and depending on the severity of your dog's symptoms, medications such as antibiotics and supportive care (often including intravenous therapy) will be done and can require multiple days of hospitalization and care before your dog starts to feel better.
The good news about leptospirosis is that it’s easy to prevent with a vaccination
. We are happy to help you evaluate your dog’s health and lifestyle to determine if she’s a good candidate for the leptospirosis vaccine. Feel free to contact us
with additional questions or to schedule an exam for your dog.
Image credit: Jupiterimages | iStock | Getty Images Plus