Leptospirosis In Dogs – What You Need To Know



Leptospirosis is essentially a bacterial infection. Dogs with the infection get it when spirochetes burrow into the skin and spread through the body. Spirochetes are spiral in shape, and are a form of bacteria. A dog’s immune system strength is the most common indicator of whether or not the infection will spread and continue to grow.

What Symptoms Are Common?

One of the first signs of infection is a fever. There may also be soreness within the muscles, and the dog will be unable to move. Animals will feel stiff, weak, and depressed.

Due to the fever, many dogs begin to shiver. They also will become dehydrated quickly, requiring a lot of water to drink to make up for it. This will lead to frequent urination.

Some dogs experience vomiting and diarrhea. This may or may not include blood. Female dogs with this disease may also experience vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood.

Are There Uncommon Symptoms?

Dogs may start to exhibit signs of anemia, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the eyes and skin. The mucus membranes may also swell, causing difficulty breathing, an irregular pulse, persistent cough, and runny nose.

What Causes Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis typically develops in wet, tropical climates. The spirochetes are also found in muddy areas where water is present, particularly within a swamp or marsh. Pastures that are irrigated are even a common site to find them.

Animals come into contact with contaminated water, whether from taking a drink from it, or even just walking through it. It is also possible to get it from contaminated urine.

The season with the highest chance for contamination is fall, when rain is coming down often, and debris are blowing around easily. This leads to quick contamination of watered areas that dogs like to play in.

Is Leptospirosis Contagious?

All it takes is a dog coming into contact with infected areas of wetness, whether from urine or water, to get the infection. It is a contagious disease that is easily spread. Dogs that have been to a shelter or kennel, or those that live on a farm, are highly susceptible to the infection.

Leptospirosis is known as a zoonotic disease that can be passed between species. It will not only be passed from one dog to another, but can also be passed along from a dog to a cat, or even a dog to a person. Children are most likely to be affected from a pet because they are too young to understand how to properly handle them.

Gloves must be worn when handling a pet who has this disease, since it is contagious to humans. Bodily fluids from an infected animal need to be treated as a biohazard. This not only includes urine or vomit, but also semen, discharge, and blood.

What is the Diagnosis?

Leptospirosis test

Diagnosing Leptospirosis takes time and care. Veterinarians need to be extremely cautious since the disease is contagious. Gloves will be worn while the diagnostic tests are ran.

A number of tests will be conducted to not only guarantee that Leptospirosis is the disease the dog has, but also to determine what stage it is at. A chemical blood profile, electrolyte panel, and antibody urine test are all needed. Typical blood cultures and urine samples are also required.

An agglutination test will be performed to measure antibodies found within the body. This calculates the body’s response to the disease, and determines the level of infection.

What is the Prognosis?

Animals infected with Leptospirosis are typically able to be treated. Most survive, as long as the infection is caught in time. Animals that remain untreated could die due to the various complications that could arise, especially organs shutting down within the body.

How is Leptospirosis Treated?

Leptospirosis should be treated at an animal hospital. Many dogs will be dehydrated and require an IV to replace fluids. A tube may also be needed to provide nutrients to a dog that has had a weak appetite.

Some dogs may experience severe bleeding while they have Leptospirosis. They may require a blood transfusion as part of treatment.

Antibiotics will work to fight the infection that has spread through the body. The type provided depends on the stage the disease has reached. It typically takes at least four weeks for the antibiotics to work their way through the system.

Living with Leptospirosis

Dogs with Leptospirosis need to be kept quarantined from others. They require a full treatment of antibiotics before they should be reintegrated with others. It may be difficult, but owners with an infected pet need to handle the dog as little as possible, and use gloves while doing so.

Some may experience side effects due to the various antibiotics. This can cause a period of pain and discomfort while the medication is working its way through the body. Any severe symptoms should be mentioned to the veterinarian.

Prevention Suggestions

The best way to prevent animals from getting Leptospirosis is by keeping them away from low-lying levels of water. It is also important to keep sick dogs quarantined so no one around them gets the disease.

As soon as a dog is found to have Leptospirosis, it is time for the entire family to get checked. This means other pets within the household, as well as all children and adults living there. Getting checked early can help fight the disease before it truly has a chance to start.

It will be necessary to fully clean and treat any areas where the dog has been present. These areas include places the dog sleeps, bathroom areas, and anywhere the animal may have left secretions. Bleach and iodine-based solutions are the only recommended products for cleaning infected areas.

Leptospirosis may test positive in the dog for several weeks following treatment. This means all bodily fluids are still harmful, and will require proper handling and cleaning until the disease is fully eliminated.

There is a vaccination available for Leptospirosis. The veterinarian will discuss giving this vaccine to a dog, and provide details on its usefulness.

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