Dog Leptospirosis Veterinarian

Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can cause serious illness in dogs. The bacteria is most commonly found in warm, moist environments, particularly stagnant or slow-moving water. Most dogs who develop the disease become infected by ingesting water that has been contaminated with the urine of rodents and wild animals.

Dogs can also become infected through bite wounds, as puppies from their mother, or ingestion of infected tissues. Although cats can also become infected with leptospirosis, this is much less common. In some circumstances, humans can also become infected with leptospirosis. In the following article, I will discuss leptospirosis in dogs and the diagnosis and treatment of this dangerous disease.

To date, there are over 200 known serovars or strains of leptospirosis. But only 5 of these are considered the most common. After entering the body through the mucous membranes of the gums, or wet or broken skin, leptospirosis then enters the bloodstream. It multiplies rapidly, spreading to vital organs, including the kidney, liver, spleen, eyes, and central nervous system. Of these, the kidney is the most commonly affected organ, followed by the liver. Dogs with leptospirosis infections can develop kidney and liver failure and be very sick.

The disease’s symptoms can vary based on the stage of infection, susceptibility, and amount of virus in the body. Shivering can be the first sign accompanied by fever. The yellow discoloration is sometimes noted to the whites of the patient’s eyes and skin.

Affected dogs can display Anorexia, vomiting, dehydration, weakness, or bruising (petechiae). Some dogs can have a decreased temperature and extreme lethargy, passing away before the virus even has a chance to invade the kidneys or liver and present itself with other commonly seen signs. Changes in heart rate, respiratory rate, and respiratory effort are also notable.

There are multiple diagnostic tests available to detect leptospirosis. Routine blood work tests may reveal kidney or liver disease, electrolyte abnormalities, and changes to white blood cell counts, but additional testing is necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment for leptospirosis focuses on antibiotics and supportive care. The degree of care varies based on the severity of the disease. Critical life-saving care is needed with advanced or more severe infections; this may involve aggressive fluid therapy and correction of electrolyte disturbances, antiemetics, and blood transfusions if clotting deficiencies have developed.

Fortunately, a vaccine helps prevent the infection of leptospirosis and is available at all World of Animals veterinary hospitals. The leptospirosis vaccine is commonly given as a series of two vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart, followed by a yearly booster vaccination. Prevention of disease also centers on eliminating stagnant water, controlling rodent populations, and isolating affected animals.

Leptospirosis in Dogs

If you think your pet may have leptospirosis, immediate consultation with a Veterinarian or veterinary specialist is recommended. Leptospirosis is a serious disease and is contagious. For questions regarding leptospirosis vaccination and prevention strategies, contact our staff at World of Animals Veterinary Hospital.  We can provide help and guidance to minimize the risk of leptospirosis to your dog.

Jeffrey Stupine V.M.D.
Medical Director
World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals