Leptospirosis is an infection that can spread to both humans and pets. It is a bacterial infection your dog could get from infected wildlife. Leptospirosis is a serious disease that can be life-threatening for your pet. Learn what you need to know to keep your dog safe from leptospirosis, as well as what to expect if your dog has been diagnosed with this type of bacterial disease.
What are the signs of leptospirosis in dogs?
While many different animals can catch leptospirosis, dogs are the most commonly infected. Catching the signs of leptospirosis in your dog early can lead to prompt treatment and better odds of a full recovery from this disease. Each case is unique. The symptoms can vary based on the dog and exposure history. Leptospirosis can cause symptoms such as:
- Fever and shivering
- Sore muscles
- Trouble or reluctance moving
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Changes in urination habits
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Swelling within the eyes
- Signs of liver or kidney failure
In rare cases, a dog with leptospirosis may develop severe lung disease and have trouble breathing. Leptospirosis can also cause bleeding disorders, with symptoms such as blood in the dog’s vomit, stool, or urine. You may also notice nosebleeds, red spots on the gums, swollen legs, or fluid accumulation in your dog’s chest or abdomen. If you notice any possible signs of leptospirosis, go to a veterinarian immediately for a diagnosis.
How is leptospirosis transmitted?
Leptospirosis is an infection that can spread to domesticated pets through wildlife. It is most prevalent in wet, humid, and tropical environments that breed bacteria. Stagnant bodies of water that wildlife frequent can carry Leptospira, the bacteria responsible for leptospirosis. The most common culprits include:
- Muddy areas
- Heavily irrigated pastures
Wildlife such as raccoons, opossums, rodents, and foxes can carry leptospirosis and spread it through their urine. If your dog ingests the urine of an infected animal by drinking it, swimming in infected water, or otherwise coming into contact with it, your pet is at risk of contracting leptospirosis. Your dog could also become infected from contact with infected soil, food, bedding, animal carcasses, or the bite of an infected animal.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning humans can contract it from animals. While it is possible to catch leptospirosis from an infected pet, it is more commonly contracted through recreational activities in infected water. In a human, leptospirosis can cause symptoms similar to the flu, such as fever and chills. In the most serious cases, human leptospirosis can also lead to liver or kidney disease.
Can a dog survive leptospirosis?
Yes, a dog can survive leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is often treatable, although it can be fatal in severe cases. If a vet diagnoses your dog with leptospirosis, the typical treatment recommended is antibiotics. The antibiotics will attack the Leptospira bacteria in your pet and fully resolve the issue, in most cases. Although the chances of recovery are high for most dogs, there is the possibility of permanent kidney or liver damage. In the most severe cases, these issues can be fatal.
What to do if your dog gets leptospirosis
Your dog will have the best prognosis for recovery with early and aggressive treatment. If your dog shows signs of leptospirosis, go to a veterinarian for blood tests, a physical exam, urine tests, and x-rays. After a leptospirosis diagnosis, follow the treatment recommendation exactly. Administer the antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian. To prevent the spread of leptospirosis to other pets or humans in the house, wash your hands after handling your pet, and avoid contact with your dog’s urine.
How can leptospirosis be prevented in pets?
A vaccine is available to prevent leptospirosis in your dog effectively. This vaccine can protect pets for at least 12 months after administration. Most veterinarians recommend an annual leptospirosis vaccine for at-risk dogs. You can also help prevent this disease by reducing your dog’s chances of exposure to Leptospira bacteria sources.
Natalie Rosen is passionate about writing and sharing content related to business, law, and consumer safety issues. She also works with Villarreal & Begum, an Austin personal injury law firm that specializes in car accidents and dog bite injuries.