What is Leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by the Leptospira bacteria. The Leptospirosis bacteria is found worldwide, and is more common in areas with warm and wet climates, though it can exist anywhere. In the United States, dog Leptospirosis is most common in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Texas, the mid-Atlantic coastal states, and in the southeastern states.
Leptospirosis in dogs is transmitted from the urine of infected wildlife (rodents, skunks, raccoons etc.) and infected waterways (puddles, streams, rivers). If a dog's mucous membranes (gums, nose, eyes), or a wound on the skin, comes in contact with the bacteria, an infection can occur. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which can be spread from animals to humans, though this is believed to be quite rare.
Leptospirosis symptoms in dogs
Symptoms of canine Leptospirosis vary, with some dogs showing no signs of infection, and other dogs showing severe liver and kidney failure and even death. Typically, Leptospirosis symptoms start 8 - 10 days after exposure, and include flu-like symptoms of fever, vomiting, muscle pain, diarrhea, lack of appetite and lethargy.
Preventing dog Leptospirosis
Because the Leptospirosis bacteria can survive in soil or water for as long as 180 days, preventing exposure in dogs can be difficult. Limiting your dog's access to outdoor areas of water like puddles of water and ponds can be helpful. Also, locations which are not heavily populated by rodents or other wildlife, and which have dry climates, are less likely to produce exposure.
The Leptospirosis vaccine is considered to be the most reliable prevention method.
The idea that dogs which are mostly kep indoors won't acquire the disease is not true. RightPet member M Teiber DVM says, "Many people choose not to vaccinate their smaller dogs who don't go outdoors much. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Most dogs I have seen get leptospirosis are small breeds who spend most of their time indoors. Therefore, I recommend the vaccine for almost every dog."
How is dog Leptospirosis diagnosed?
Because the clinical signs of Leptospirosis are not unique, and can resemble many other illnesses, lab work is necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Initial screening tests include:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Blood Chemistry Panel
Based on the results from these initial dog laboratory tests, the vet may want to do second round of more precise testing:
- Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT)
- Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing (PCR)