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Leptospirosis Fact Sheet

What is Leptospirosis ?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a type of bacteria called leptospira usually found in the contaminated urine of infected pets or wild animals.

How do dogs and cats catch Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is transferred by contact with infected urine, or water that may have infected urine in it, such as puddles or drainage ditches. The bacteria can enter the pet’s body through an open wound, through the mucous membranes, or through sexual contact with an infected animal. Sometimes, pets can get leptospirosis if they ingest the infected tissue of an animal that also had the disease. Leptospirosis is generally more common in young adult dogs; it is very rare in cats. People can catch leptospirosis too; it is very important to bring your dog in for testing if you suspect he or she has this disease.

What are the symptoms?

From point of exposure, clinical signs of leptospirosis may develop anywhere from five to fourteen days later. However, symptoms may not be present for as long as 30 days. Some pets may not show signs of leptospirosis at all, but common symptoms are fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, pain similar to arthritis, nausea, excessive drinking, yellowed skin (jaundice), abdominal pain, stiffness and excessive urination. On basic blood work run by your veterinarian, an infected pet MAY show increased liver and kidney values, and low platelet counts in the blood. Leptospirosis generally settles in the kidneys after traveling through the bloodstream, where it quickly reproduces. The kidneys become inflamed, and eventually the pet’s kidneys fail entirely. Sometimes the liver can be involved as well, along with other organ failure. However, ALL of these symptoms may be signs of numerous other diseases – only a specific blood test for leptospirosis can be used to confirm diagnosis. This test can be run by your veterinarian, usually by an outside laboratory.

Can Leptospirosis be treated?

Yes, although depending on the severity of the case, the prognosis can be guarded.  Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics of the penicillin family. This antibiotic helps stop bacteria reproduction and infection in the bloodstream. Your veterinarian may decide it is necessary to use additional antibiotics to help clear the leptospires from the kidneys.

It is ESSENTIAL that sick pets with confirmed leptospirosis diagnosis be on intravenous fluids. I.V. fluids help clear out the kidneys and other organs so they can recovery as quickly as possible. This usually requires several days of hospitalization.

At home, it is important for any contaminated surfaces or areas where your pet has urinated to be cleaned with iodine or bleach based product. Gloves should be worn at all times when contact with infected urine or blood is possible. All medications provided by your veterinarian for treatment should be given to your pet for their full duration.

Is Leptospirosis preventable?

Yes and no. You can keep your pet safe by controlling the rodent population around your home with pesticides and avoiding stagnant water when walking your pet.

There is also a vaccination for leptospirosis (canine only) – Dogs will receive the initial shot, then two weeks later are required a booster shot. Once those are complete, the Lepto vaccine is good for one year.

If you have any further questions about Leptospirosis or the vaccine protocol, please call us at 239-481-3525.

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