After a warm winter with above average rainfall in San Joaquin County, Leptospirosis is a growing concern for pet owners in our area. Commonly known as Lepto, this potentially deadly disease is caused by infection with the Leptospira bacteria.
The bacteria live in soil and water, and the disease is spread when your pet comes in contact with contaminated water or urine from contaminated animals. The bacteria enters the body through the eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound. Mice and rats can spread the disease to your pet, and it can also be passed through the placenta from a mother dog to her puppies. While dogs are most commonly affected by Lepto, the disease can affect cats and can pass from animals to people.
Leptospirosis was once confined to rural or hunting dogs, but more and more household pets are contracting the disease. Last month, three pets at the clinic tested positive for Lepto, and new data from animal experts suggests that urban dogs are just as likely to be infected as rural dogs.
Symptoms and Treatment
Signs of the disease include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, severe weakness, and increased thirst. Some infected pets show no symptoms at all; other affected dogs may develop bleeding disorders, swollen legs, or fluid accumulation in their chest or abdomen.
Leptospirosis is costly to diagnose and treat. In addition to a complete physical exam, your veterinarian may recommend blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, an ultrasound, or antibody testing. While generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care, extreme cases may require oxygen therapy or kidney dialysis. When treated early, the chances for recovery are good, but without early detection and treatment, the disease can result in permanent organ damage and death.
Protect Your Pet
To keep your pet safe, prevention is key. At Sierra, we strongly recommend that all dogs receive the Lepto vaccine every year, including household dogs that are primarily indoor pets. Available vaccines prevent Leptospirosis and provide up to 12 months of protection—talk to your veterinarian about which vaccine is best for your dog.
We also recommend that you take a proactive approach and reduce your pet’s exposure to possible sources of Leptospira bacteria:
- Avoid letting your dog (or cat) drink from or swim in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, or stagnant water.
- Minimize your pet’s contact with potentially infected rodents, farm animals, wildlife, and other dogs (such as at dog parks or multi-dog facilities).
If you suspect your pet may have Leptospirosis, be sure to call the clinic immediately. Your veterinarian can perform tests to detect the presence of Leptospira antibodies or organisms in your pet.