Leptospirosis is a serious, potentially deadly infection found worldwide that’s caused by multiple strains of spirochete bacteria. A zoonotic disease, leptospirosis can be transmitted between animals and humans. A variety of wild animals, including rodents, raccoons, and skunks carry leptospirosis, and the bacteria is spread through bodily fluids like urine.

Humans and dogs most commonly become infected when exposed to the bacteria in nature, often when swimming in fresh water. Dogs can become infected while digging in dirt, picking up objects with their mouths, or drinking from puddles. While it’s possible for a person to contract the disease from being exposed to an infected pet’s bodily fluids, people more commonly contract the disease in nature. Although cats can contract leptospirosis, they seem to possess a natural resistance and often only become mildly ill.

Signs, Symptoms, and Risks of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis signs and symptoms depend on the pet and the severity of the infection. Some infected dogs have no symptoms, while others experience severe flu-like problems, including:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Shivering
  • Soreness or stiffness
  • Increased thirst and/or dehydration
  • Frequent urination or the inability to urinate
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Spots on gums
  • Jaundice
  • Difficulty breathing or irregular breathing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Nasal discharge

Left untreated, leptospirosis can lead to the fatal failure of a pet’s kidneys and liver. If you notice any symptoms of illness or changes in your pet’s behavior, schedule an appointment right away.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Leptospirosis

To diagnose leptospirosis, our veterinarian will perform a completely physical examination and ask you about your pet’s life style to determine potential exposure risk. We’ll also discuss your pet’s symptoms with you. A definitive leptospirosis diagnosis is only reached after the completion of uranalysis and blood tests to identify the presence of the bacteria and antibodies and to check your pet’s organ function.

A bacterial infection, leptospirosis is treated with the administration of antibiotics. Depending on the severity of a pet’s disease, hospitalization and additional supportive treatments might be required such as intravenous fluid and antibiotic administration. In severe cases, blood transfusion or dialysis might be required to stabilize a pet.

Leptospirosis Prevention

Dogs can be vaccinated to protect them from contracting leptospirosis. You can also take measures to limit their exposure. Prevent your pet form interacting with wildlife. Don’t let pets drink from puddles and discourage them digging in areas where rodents or other wildlife roam.

Ask about Protecting Your Richmond Pet from Leptospirosis

The leptospirosis vaccination is not a core vaccine, meaning it’s not required for all pets, but we do recommend it for many pets. If your pet spends time outdoors, digging, drinking from puddles, swimming in fresh water, or picking things up with its mouth, then the leptospirosis vaccine will protect your entire household from contracting the bacterial disease.

If you’d like to know more about protecting your pets from leptospirosis, we welcome you to ask our veterinarian during your pet’s next appointment with Capital Home Veterinary Care.