No one wants their dog to get sick, especially when that illness can also be passed on to people. Leptospirosis is one of these diseases that can be easily passed from animals to humans. However, the Leptospirosis vaccine is one that often causes a lot of confusion for new and even long-time pet owners, so we are happy to educate our community on this important topic.
In this article we will be explaining all that you need to know about Leptospirosis infections in dogs. We will be describing the symptoms of this disease, how it is treated and diagnosed, and how dogs can catch it. In addition, we will be answering some other commonly asked questions about Leptospirosis in dogs.
What is Leptospirosis and How Common is It?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that affects mammals. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial infection that is passed in the urine of another infected animal. Luckily, it is a preventable disease, and it is usually only problematic in puppies and senior dogs. It is also treatable through prescribed antibiotics. It is uncommon in many areas, especially where vaccination against this disease is prevalent, further highlighting the importance of ensuring your dog up-to-date on their Leptospirosis vaccine.
How Do Dogs Get Leptospirosis?
Dogs mainly get Leptospirosis by coming into contact with the urine of an infected animal. Usually, rats and mice are the culprits, but many other mammals can catch and spread this disease as well.
Here are the most common instances where dogs come into contact with this bacteria:
- Swimming in infected water
- Drinking from infected puddles
- Rolling around in infected mud
- Running through infected muddy pastures
- Through other dogs in a kennel
What Dogs Are the Most at Risk of Getting Leptospirosis?
Dogs who live in rural areas and spend a lot of time outdoors are technically most at risk of catching Leptospirosis. As a result, dogs breeds that are a part of the sporting, herding, and hunting groups spending a lot of time in these types of areas are also technically at a higher risk than dogs of other breed groups. However, city dogs are still at risk for the disease due to the population of city rats and the possibility of contagion through other dogs at boarders and daycares.
Many healthy adult dogs can fight off this illness just fine, especially when caught early and treated with antibiotics. However, puppies under six months old and elderly dogs can be more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms than younger adult healthy dogs are.
What Are the Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Dogs?
There are a wide variety of symptoms that can be caused by a Leptospirosis infection in dogs. This is because they usually range in severity depending on how well a dog’s immune system can fight off the bacteria.
This bacteria mainly attacks the liver and kidneys, so symptoms associated with kidney and liver problems can also occur if the disease progresses. Some common early signs of Leptospirosis in dogs include:
- Reduced appetite
- Stiffness (especially in the legs)
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration
- Increased thirst and urination
In addition to the above symptoms, occasionally swelling of the lymph nodes and mucus membranes can occur. Your dog may experience some nasal discharge and a slight cough as well. Some dog’s symptoms may be more severe than this, especially if they have a weak immune system.
Extreme Leptospirosis Symptoms
If your dog is experiencing extreme Leptospirosis symptoms then you should bring them in to see your veterinarian immediately. This is because they may need to be hospitalized to manage these symptoms and fight off the illness.
Some extreme symptoms of Leptospirosis that require immediate veterinary care include:
- Blood in vomit or diarrhea
- Symptoms of extreme dehydration
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Blood in vaginal discharge (for females only)
- Petechiae (dark red, speckled gums)
- Having a difficulty breathing
- Fast breathing rate
- Irregular heartbeat
Can People Catch Leptospirosis from Their Dogs?
Yes, people can catch Leptospirosis from their dogs if they are infected with Leptospirosis. This disease can become life-threatening in humans, especially for those with weak immune systems.
Some common symptoms experienced in people with Leptospirosis include:
- Fever and headaches
- Muscle pain
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
- A rash
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Like in pets, Leptospirosis in humans is treated by antibiotics that have been prescribed by a doctor after the disease has been diagnosed. These antibiotics can usually be taken orally from home when the illness is caught early on.
However, intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization to manage symptoms may be required in severe cases.
How is Leptospirosis in Dogs Diagnosed?
Our veterinarians at West Loop Veterinary Care can diagnose Leptospirosis in dogs from a blood or urine test, and sometimes both if the infection and symptoms are severe. With the diagnostic results they can detect the Leptospirosis bacteria, and how much of it is in your dog’s system. They will then create a treatment plan for your dog based on these results.
What is the Treatment for Leptospirosis in Dogs?
The treatment for Leptospirosis in dogs is antibiotics, and they are usually given to dogs for about a month. However, if the infection is severe a longer amount of time may be needed. In addition, severe cases of Leptospirosis may require hospitalization to help manage your dog’s symptoms. They may require a blood transfusion or IV fluids to cure dehydration. If your dog’s case of Leptospirosis does not require hospitalization, then treatment is similar to that of many other diseases.
Recovery often includes making sure they are drinking plenty of water, and let them get lots of rest. In addition, it is recommended that you clean up urine or vomit with a bleach solution promptly to prevent transmission of the disease to both humans and other pets in your home.
You can prevent your dog from getting Leptospirosis by ensuring they receive their Leptosposirs vaccine annually. Although the vaccine does not protect your pet from every strain of this disease, it still provides protection from some of the most common strains. Preventing your dog from drinking from puddles and keeping them away from known infected areas can prevent your dog from catching this disease as well. To make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccines including the leptospirosis vaccine call West Loop Veterinary Care at 312-421-2275 or book an appointment online.