It’s a real danger. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that is on the rise in Kansas and can cause liver and kidney failure in dogs. It use to be considered the “farm dog” disease and it was believed that an animal had to spend a lot of time outdoors near water to be considered at risk. As the suburbs have spread out into rural areas this disease can now be a risk to dogs in their own back yards.
So how can your dog be at risk? Easy. Too easy actually. All it takes is an infected squirrel running through your back yard, urinating in your yard, and your dog running through it that can expose him to this deadly disease. Ok, it’s not just from squirrels. Leptospirosis can infect any mammal, bird, amphibian, or reptile. The infected animal passes leptospirosis through urine and as long as that urine stays moist it can stay infectious. Basically, if you let your dog out in the yard to go to the bathroom it is at risk for leptospirosis. They can get it by licking it off the grass or puddle, or by it penetrating through an open cut on their pads.
How can you tell if your dog has leptospirosis? In some cases the disease does not have any outward clinical signs. The two most common signs that you may notice are depression and fever. Some dogs may appear to be tucking their stomachs up as if in pain. Other signs may be stiffness, loss of appetite and excessive drinking. If these symptoms are not noticed, leptospirosis can lead to more severe symptoms such as increase thirst, jaundice, change in urine color, breathing difficulty and nervous system abnormalities. Puppies younger than six months of age are more likely to develop life threatening symptoms.
Treatment for leptospirosis usually begins with a few different type of antibiotics. Supportive fluid therapy is also used to assist in the reversal of kidney damage. It also helps increase the blood flow to the kidney in order to increase urine production. How successful the treatment is depends on which strain of leptospirosis the animal is infected with, there are over two hundred strains, and how long the disease has gone without treatment.
Prevention of leptospirosis is easy and in the long run will cost you less than the treatment of the disease. There are a few vaccines out there. One vaccine is a stand alone leptospirosis vaccine while the other is a combination distemper, parvo, adeno, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis vaccine. If you have a puppy and are just starting off with their set of puppy vaccines the combination shot will work great for you. You will still get the same number of vaccines with less shots. If you have an older dog then you will use the single leptospirosis shot. In the beginning it is a series so you will get two shots about 3 weeks apart and then they will be annual vaccines that can be given at your annual visit.
Leptospirosis is a deadly bacterial infection that can be easily prevented by a vaccine. It is no longer considered a disease that is only a risk to dogs that spend a lot of time outside or around water. One case I remember seeing was a little chihuahua that was placed on the grass to go potty and then picked up to go back inside. The owners caught it in time but it was still costly to them and made their dog pretty sick. So please see your veterinarian today to make sure your dog is protected.
For all the love they give us, let’s give it back by taking good care of them.