Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a disease that affects both humans and animals. The bacteria is spread through the urine of an infected animal. When your dog comes in contact with the infected soil or water, the bacteria can enter the body through a cut in the skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth). The time between exposure to the bacteria and developing the disease is usually 5-14 days. However, that time can be less or as long as 30 days or more.
The clinical signs of Leptospirosis vary and are non-specific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms. Common clinical signs have been reported in dogs. These include:
- Abdominal pain
- Refusal to eat
- Severe weakness and depression
- Severe joint pain
Generally younger dogs are more affected than older dogs. Kidney and liver failure are common outcomes from Leptospirosis and prognosis is guarded depending on the extent of organ damage. Fortunately, Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics. Intravenous fluids may also be required. As with most diseases, the earlier you treat, the better the outcome.
Pet owners need to take precautions when handling urine or blood because humans can become infected as well. Wash your hands if you think you have had any direct or indirect contact with urine or blood. If you need to have contact with the urine of an infected animal, use gloves. If any surfaces are contaminated with urine from and infected pet, cleat with a solution of 1 part bleach in 10 parts water.
The good news is that there is a vaccine which protects against four different serovars (strains) of leptospires (the bacteria that causes leptospirosis). However, there are other serovars that the vaccine does not protect against. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria so to help protect your pet, keep rodent problems under control.
If you think your pet has been exposed to Leptospirosis or if you have any questions, please give us a call at Eagle Animal Hospital (610)458-8789. We strongly encourage all dogs to be vaccinated against Leptospirosis on an annual basis. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Harriet Band, receptionist