Many pet owners worry about leptospirosis, a dangerous disease that can make our dogs miserable, and it’s a reasonable concern—leptospirosis can be fatal for dogs and can even be transmitted to their owners if left untreated, making it a particularly worrisome illness.
So, What Is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a water-borne illness that survives best in rivers, lakes, standing water, and even mud or moist soil. The bacteria can survive for quite a long time in water, and infected animals can continue to have leptospirosis in their urine for months or even years after they recover. While primarily affecting dogs, leptospirosis can infect a wide range of mammals, including skunks, raccoons, and opossums.
As a result, leptospirosis has a long a reach, and dog owners everywhere should be aware of the risk.
For instance, it’s common to see outbreaks after a flood, and dog owners who enjoy weekend trips to the lake would be wise to get their pets vaccinated. Even standing water can be a source of the disease, meaning that it might be best to avoid that innocent puddle on your evening walk if your dog tends to drink from standing water.
Common Signs of Leptospirosis
Typically, Leptospirosis symptoms emerge 2-12 days after a dog is infected. In many dogs, the disease might not present any symptoms and the infection may remain chronic. In other cases, the disease can lead to fatal kidney and liver disease if left untreated.
Here are the common symptoms to look out for:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody urine
- Lethargy or laziness
- Joint pain, limping
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive bleeding
Treatment and Prevention
Once diagnosed, leptospirosis can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Depending on how advanced the disease is, your pet might need treatments for kidney and liver damage. In some cases, a dog may need to be hospitalized for treatment.
Dog owners should also take precautions if they suspect that their dog might be infected, because the disease can be transmitted to humans. When handling a potentially infected dog, it’s important frequently wash your hands and avoid contact with contaminated urine.
All of this sounds scary, but the good news is that many forms of leptospirosis can be prevented through vaccination.
Of course, dogs that don’t frequently go swimming or drink from puddles will likely not be recommended for vaccination. However, for dogs that have active, outdoor lifestyles, vaccination can help ensure your dog is protected. Vaccination does not prevent all forms of the bacteria, but it can greatly reduce your dog’s chance of infection.
If you would like more details on treating and preventing this infection, please read our detailed care guide on leptospirosis.
If you’re concerned about whether your dog might be at risk, just contact us! We can recommend the best course of action for protecting your companion against leptospirosis and other illnesses.