Leptospirosis: Do I need to worry?

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis, or Lepto, is an acute to chronic illness in dogs caused by a spiral shaped bacteria called spirochetes.

How do dogs get Leptospirosis?

Infection in dogs occur from the dog having abraded (irritate or cut) skin and comes in contact with urine or water contaminated with infected urine.  Dogs in areas with a lot of wildlife exposure are more at risk then dogs that are in the city with less exposure to creatures such as rats, mice, raccoons, etc.

What are the symptoms of Leptospirosis? How bad is it for my dog?

Lepto bacterium, once they enter the blood stream, tend to cause fever, joint discomfort/pain, and general poor doing. The spirochetes then continue to travel through the body till they reach their organ of choice. Each serovar (or species of bacteria) have their own ‘ideal’ organ. Most of the serovars that affect dogs tend to prefer the kidney tissue and liver tissue. These are the two organs most effected by the spirochete organism. It is estimated that 90% of cases involve Kidney failure and 10-20% have Liver failure (either solo or injunction to kidney failure).

What should you do to protect your dog?

Talk to your veterinarian! Leptospirosis is not common in all areas, so the risk to any one dog in particular may be quite low. However, if you do hike or travel to areas that may have more exposure, then there is a vaccine that can help your dog recognize and eliminate this organism if he or she does get exposed to it. or of course, if your dog is in an area the does have exposure to wildlife or known cases of Lepto, then vaccination is strongly advised.  Getting your dog vaccinated is really very simple. It requires an initial vaccine, then another 2-4 weeks later to ensure adequate immunity is reached. Then, this vaccine becomes part of your dogs annual vaccine schedule. Just like any vaccine, your dog may experience a day or two of low energy or feeling ill-after all his/her immune system is being challenged and ‘trained’ to recognize something new. If symptoms last for more than 48 hours, or if your dog is unable to hold down food or water, please do contact your veterinarian.

Vaccination will protect your pet, but your dog may still ‘pick up’ and shed the Leptospirosis bacteria to its environment and pose a concern for its people and near by dogs.

Should I be concerned about Lepto?

In short…YES! It is a zoonotic disease (meaning it can transfer to humans!).  Now, the way you would get it is from your dog as I can’t imagine you are too likely to be eating things off the forest floor or drinking contaminated water from a puddle or stream.  If your dog does come in contact with Lepto bacteria, he/she can shed it in their urine, saliva and other excretions. Good hygiene practices are very important in protecting yourself, and those around you, from exposure to organisms that can be transfered from your pet to you!

Is there more to know?

Of course! Science is endless and year by year we learn more and more about organisms like Leptospirosis!

Where it concerns you though, is to know to watch for any signs such as:

  • fever
  • depression
  • loss of appetite
  • sudden joint pain (or worsened pain)
  • nausea
  • excessive drinking/urination
  • jaundice (yellow tinge color to gums, skin or eyes)
  • changes to behavior

If any of the above signs occur, please do call your veterinarian. There is testing available to test specifically for exposure to Leptospirosis and speed in discovery and aggressive support care is key to survival! (Luckily for us, it is a bacteria! And there are antibiotics that do fight this organism!)

If any questions or concerns arise, don’t hesitate to call us at  Central Animal Hospital.


Summer woes

Did you know one of the most common skin problems we see during the summer is due to spear grass?

Spear grass is a term we use to describe any of the grasses we see in Kamloops with sharp, hard seeds which ‘hook’ or attach to our pets fur.

Due to the shape and texture of these seeds, they tend to migrate towards the pets skin. Once against the skin, they can puncture the skin and work their way deeper into the tissue.

Common areas we see these pesky seeds is in between the toes and in the ear canals.  Often the area is tender, inflamed and can become infected.

It is not uncommon for heavy sedation or anesthetic to be needed in order to safely remove the embedded spear grass.


How can you protect your pet from this summer woe?

  • Avoid walking in areas full of these grasses when the grass is dry and has gone to seed. Once the seeds have fallen, it is best to avoid these areas till the snow covers the grass seeds or have your pet wear protective foot booties.
  • Comb your pet regularly, especially after being in an area with spear grass. remembering to pay extra attention to the ears and paws. Being careful to watch/feel for any seeds ‘tangled’ in their fur.
  • Clean your yard of any of the common spear grasses in our area to avoid extra exposure to your pet.

If you do notice your pet licking their paw, a specific area of their body, shaking their head or pawing at an ear; be sure to call us. It is very important to remove these grass seeds before they migrate into tissues of the body!