Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can impact dogs, farms, and wild animals in addition to people. Our Boulder County veterinarians list signs and symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs and what you can do to protect your canine companion.
What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is a disease that affects dogs, farms, and wild animals along with people. Caused by the bacteria Leptospira, which can be found worldwide in soil and water that’s been contaminated with infected urine.
Although this bacteria can exist anywhere, warm regions with high annual rainfall are where it is more prevalent. According to studies, the illness has slowly spread to the western states of the country, including Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
Leptospirosis can be spread from animals to people because it is a zoonotic illness. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and pets, just like they can from pets. Leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are typically brought on by contact with tainted water.
How can my dog contract leptospirosis?
Every dog is at risk of developing leptospirosis, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban, or rural area. Common risk factors include:
- Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your backyard
- Contact with rodents, such as squirrels or rats, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed, or in urban areas)
What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?
Common signs of leptospirosis in dogs include:
- Decreased appetite or not eating
- Shivering or fever
- Increased drinking and/or urination
- Conjunctivitis (red eye)
- Muscle pain, stiffness, or reluctance to move
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
Prevention & Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs
Similar to many other diseases, it’s always better to prevent leptospirosis than to treat it. If your pet has never had a vaccine for this disease, ask your vet when and if your dog should have one based on your pet’s risks and options.
Our vets offer the leptospirosis vaccine for puppies between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. We’ll need to see your pooch again for a vaccine booster three to four weeks after the initial shot. Revaccinating annually is often required to maintain the best immunity.
Owners of dogs who may have had leptospirosis should wash their hands after petting their dog and refrain from touching their dog's urine with bare skin because the disease can be passed from dogs to humans. When cleaning any areas that your dog might have ruined, put on a pair of rubber gloves, and disinfect any spots where your dog has urinated. To eliminate the organism, use diluted bleach or a common household disinfectant.
Antibiotics can be used to treat leptospirosis and keep other members of your household from getting sick.
What are the chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis?
Your dog with leptospirosis has an 80% chance of survival with appropriate and prompt treatment, though their ability to function normally in the kidneys or the liver may be permanently compromised. So, the moment your dog starts exhibiting leptospirosis symptoms, you must take them to the vet.