Pet Health & Wellness
Leptospirosis is considered one of the most common zoonotic (meaning it can affect both humans and animals) diseases worldwide. You’ve probably heard leptospirosis mentioned during your pet’s annual wellness exam, but how many of us know exactly what this disease is and how it could affect our pets?
Cases of leptospirosis are rising among pets in the United States, and your friends at Animal Medical & Surgical Center want all pet owners to be aware of the dangers associated with the disease and to know how to protect their pets and families.
What Is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira, a spiral shaped bacterium found worldwide in soil and water. The disease can affect many different types of animals, including wildlife and farm animals, and is spread through contact with or ingestion of urine, soil, or water. Among pets, leptospirosis most commonly affects dogs, and the risk factors for transmission include:
- Swimming and drinking from standing or natural water sources, such as ponds, puddles, and drainage ditches
- Roaming in rural environments
- Contact with farm animals or their water sources
- Contact with wildlife, rodents, or infected dogs (or their water sources, such as communal water bowls at dog parks)
Symptoms of Leptospirosis
The symptoms of leptospirosis in pets vary widely and can range from none to severe. Signs your pet may have contracted leptospirosis include:
- Muscle tenderness
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes)
- Increased thirst
- Changes in urinary habits
- Loss of appetite
- Painful, inflamed eyes
In severe cases, leptospirosis can cause kidney or liver failure, lung disease, or bleeding disorders in pets. If you suspect your pet has leptospirosis, please call us right away. Because leptospirosis is zoonotic, make sure not to come into contact with your pet’s bodily fluids.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If leptospirosis is suspected (after taking a complete health history of your pet), your veterinarian will likely order a number of diagnostic tests, including:
- Complete blood count
- Electrolyte panel
- Urine and blood cultures
- Antibody test
Most cases of leptospirosis can be successfully treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, pets may need to be hospitalized for fluid replacement therapy and any other treatments necessary for severe symptoms.
As with any medical condition, prevention is always preferable to treatment. Protect your pet and your family by:
- Having your pet vaccinated for leptospirosis, and making sure he or she receives boosters as recommended by your veterinarian.
- Keeping rodent populations on your property under control.
- Preventing your pet from drinking from standing water or puddles.
- Avoiding encounters with wildlife by keeping your pet leashed and on maintained paths and trails, using fencing around your property, and keeping outdoor trash and recycling bins securely covered.