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:
- loss of appetite
- sudden joint pain (or worsened pain)
- 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.