leptospirosisScanning electron micrograph of a number of Leptospira sp. bacteria

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that infects domestic animals, wildlife and humans.  It is the world’s most common zoonotic disease, meaning it is a disease that can infect both animals and humans.  The disease-causing bacteria are spread through urine of infected animals and can survive from weeks to months in soil and surface waters such as lakes, streams, rivers and stagnant water like puddles.  Rodents, raccoons, skunks, opossums, cattle and swine can all carry and spread Leptospirosis.  Leptospirosis can cause fever, jaundice, kidney failure, abortion and even death.

When is your dog at risk?

Leptospirosis is typically spread when an opening in the skin or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth) comes in contact with the infected urine.  Your dog may be exposed to this  bacteria by drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water.  The curious nature of your dog, following their nose, may also bring them into contact with the infected urine.

The threat to humans.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 100-200 human cases of Leptospirosis are reported in the United States annually.  In people, the symptoms are often flu-like and in rare cases the disease can develop into a life-threatening illness.  Most human cases of Leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics.

Clinical Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Signs of Leptospirosis infection in dogs may include fever, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain.  If you suspect your dog has been infected, contact your veterinarian, who may perform urine and blood tests to determine if your dog has Leptospirosis.  Antibiotics and fluid therapy may be necessary to treat the disease.  If left untreated, your dog could develop kidney or liver failure and the disease may even be fatal.

What can you do?

To give your dog the Leptosiprosis protection it needs, veterinarians recommend vaccination on a yearly basis.  Also, keep your dog from drinking, swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.