Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a certain type of bacteria that can affect both humans and animals. Leptospirosis has many different strains that can affect people and animals in different ways. Though the disease can also affect cats and other animals, it is mostly a problem for humans and dogs.

Leptospirosis Spread and Occurrence

Leptospirosis can be transferred from dog to dog in a number of ways:

  • through bite wounds
  • through contact with infected urine
  • through contact with contaminated bedding
  • through contact with contaminated water, food or bowls
  • through placental transfer
  • through the ingestion of infected tissue.

Leptospirosis is more common in crowded living conditions, such as kennels. The disease is also more common in warmer temperatures, such as during the summer.

Leptospirosis cells thrive in wet environments and near water sources.

Leptospirosis Symptoms

Leptospirosis spreads quickly through a number of systems in the body. The disease can affect:

  • eyes
  • genital tract
  • kidneys
  • liver
  • mucous membranes
  • nervous system
  • spleen.

Symptoms can vary depending on the strain of the disease and the particular dog, but may include:

  • anorexia
  • dehydration
  • depression
  • fever of about 103 F or 104 F
  • hypothermia
  • increased thirst
  • muscle tenderness
  • shivering
  • vomiting.

Because of the severity of these symptoms and the impact the disease can have on the kidneys and liver, many dogs will die very quickly from this disease. Those with less kidney and liver damage will begin to recover seven to eight days after the onset of the disease.

However, they will continue to shed leptospirosis in their urine for many months after recovery.

Leptospirosis Treatment

Leptospirosis treatment is aimed at counteracting and lessening the symptoms of the disease that the dog is experiencing.

Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat a number of symptoms and infections, and penicillin is generally favored for treating the initial infection.

Doxycycline is a medication that is often given to prevent the dog from becoming a long-time carrier of the disease. Other medication can also be given to control vomiting.

Fluid replacement may be necessary for dehydrated dogs. Fluid can be given through an IV or subcutaneously (under the skin).

Leptospirosis Prevention

Leptospirosis can be prevented in many cases through vaccination and appropriate precautions. Vaccinations for leptospirosis are available for a few different strains, though the vaccine will not prevent your dog from getting all strains of the disease.

Generally, vaccines for leptospirosis can last anywhere from six to eight months. This means that at-risk dogs will need to be vaccinated twice every year. Vaccines can begin when a dog is 12 weeks to 16 weeks old. A series of two or three vaccinations is usually needed before dogs can begin twice yearly vaccinations.

Also, pet owners should make sure their dogs avoid exposure to the disease when possible. This means keeping your dog away from:

  • contaminated water sources
  • other domestic or wild animals that could be carrying the disease
  • wildlife reservoirs.

Also, pet owners should remember to handle their dog carefully if they suspect leptospirosis, as the disease can also affect people.