As the warmer months approach, we all want to enjoy the outdoors which can mean more hikes and walks for our pets. What we don’t always think about is the dangers that can be lingering in these environments, including Leptospirosis .

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial infection that can be present in these environments. Typically loving wet warmer climates, Leptospirosis can be found around rivers, lakes, streams, and even in your own backyard.

This infection is caused by the bacteria Leptospira and can cause serious damage to your dog’s kidneys and liver. Unfortunately, this infection can be fatal, leaving families heartbroken.

How do dogs become infected?

While many dogs can be infected by contact with contaminated soil or direct contact with infected urine, dogs can also become infected by ingesting an animal who is positive for Leptospirosis.

Sometimes we get a false sense of security with our backyard, but what many don’t realize is that the animals that carry Leptospirosis can still be present in these areas and there is still a risk of infection.

This exposure can result from wildlife, farm animals, rodents, etc. Areas that include rivers, lakes or streams have a higher risk to our pets.

Once inside the body, Leptospirosis replicates quickly in the bloodstream and moves into the liver and kidneys, where it can cause permanent damage.

What are the Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis?

Dogs can have a wide range of symptoms but the most common are:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Jaundice

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be indications of other diseases so a physical examination, history, and diagnostics (including blood work and urine) are important to determine if your dog is infected with Leptospirosis.

Can your pet be treated?

Some animals may need hospitalization and supportive care like IV fluids, others may just need antibiotics.

Even with treatment there can be risk of permanent damage to the kidneys and/or liver. This makes checking for it and treating early important.

Your dog is positive, now what does that mean for you?

Since Leptospirosis is a zoonotic infection, meaning it can be transferred from animal to human, it is important you:

  • Avoid contact with your dog’s urine
  • Clean their urine quickly and with disinfectant
  • Make sure you wear gloves when cleaning your dog’s urine
  • Wash your hands after handling your pet
  • Always see your doctor if you feel you were exposed or not feeling well

Is there a way to prevent an infection?

  • There is a vaccination that is FDA approved and can protect your dog for at least 12 months. It is recommended that dogs, especially at-risk dogs, are vaccinated yearly.
  • Remember while all dogs are at risk, dogs that drink from rivers, lakes and streams, roam on rural land, and have exposure to wild animals are a higher risk.

For more questions and answers contact your local Veterinarian at THRIVE Affordable Vet Care! They will be able to discuss your pet’s risk factors and see if the Leptospirosis vaccination is appropriate for your pet.