What is Leptospirosis?

What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria leptospira. Leptospirosis can infect wildlife, livestock and rodents, but can also be spread to dogs and even humans.

How do dogs become infected with leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals that can penetrate into water and soil sources. Dogs can be exposed to leptospirosis through ingestion of contaminated water (especially stagnant or slow-moving water), ingestion of tissues from infected animals or direct penetration through breaks in the skin. Common examples would include a dog drinking out of a puddle that an infected wild animal has urinated in or ingestion of a rodent that was infected. Peak incidence tends to occur after periods of heavy rainfall where leptospirosis can persist in the environment for month under the right conditions.

What are the symptoms of Leptospirosis?
Many dogs will present with general symptoms of lethargy, weakness, poor appetite, vomiting,
fever, increased water intake, and increased urination. While leptospirosis can cause
widespread organ damage, it most commonly presents with signs of kidney and liver disease.

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?
A combination of a pet's history, physical exam findings and general lab screenings will help
narrow down a diagnosis of leptospirosis. Specific testing for leptospirosis may include more
than one test on the blood and urine to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis can be a life-threatening infection, but typically has a good prognosis if caught
early and treated aggressively. Generally, hospitalization with IV fluid support, antibiotics and
careful monitoring are required for treatment.

Can leptospirosis be prevented?
Dogs can be vaccinated against the most common strains of leptospirosis. Vaccines have
proven to be safe and effective for most patients. Patients may experience some soreness after
vaccination, but the leptospirosis vaccine has not been found to cause more serious reactions
compared to other vaccines. While this vaccine is not considered a core vaccine, it is
highly recommended for all patients regardless of their lifestyle due to the prevalence in
the area and the severity of potential illness. Talk to your veterinarian if you have more
questions about Leptospirosis!

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