Posted by Southtowns Animal Hospital on August 24, 2018

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people.  In the United States, most cases of human Leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water but transmission from contact with an infected pet is possible.

The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis can be found in both soil and water.  Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long as the urine is still moist.  The type of habitats most likely to carry Leptospirosis bacteria includes muddy riverbanks, ditches, gullies, slow-moving streams, ponds, puddles, wet grass, and containers left outside holding stagnant water.  The number of Leptospirosis infections is affected by the amount of rainfall, making it seasonal in the Western New York Area.  However, infection can occur out of “season” any time and anywhere there is standing water.

Dogs are commonly affected. Risk factors for Leptospirosis in dogs include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams, access to rural property and farm animals, exposure to wild animals, even if in the backyard, contact with rodents.

Dogs can become infected and develop Leptospirosis if their mucous membranes or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape, come into contact with infected urine.  This can be through urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; or by eating infected tissues or carcasses

Even dogs who are house-bound can contract Leptospirosis if mice, rats, or other rodents enter the home and urinate on bedding or water and food bowls.

There is a vaccine to prevent Leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months and by minimizing exposure to possible sources of contaminated water containing the bacteria can reduce the chances of infection.

Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, liver failure, bleeding disorders, respiratory distress, and death.  Symptoms include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Dogs may occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing.  These symptoms can easily be mistaken for other diseases until a dog is seriously ill, and some infected dogs may have no symptoms at all.

When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage.  Prevention is much better than treatment.  If your dog is not vaccinated against this bacterial disease, please contact the hospital at 824-4108 to set up an appointment to discuss risk factors and be immunized.

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