Pet owners have no shortage of decisions to make when it comes to protecting the health of their furry companions. Making sure your pet is protected against disease should top your list of concerns, especially when it comes to something as prevalent as leptospirosis.
This dangerous bacterial infection poses a serious risk to pets and people, and it’s on the rise in the U.S. and Canada. Now is a more important time than ever to know how to safeguard your loved ones, both animal and human.
The Nitty Gritty
Leptospirosis is found everywhere, although it’s more common in warm, wet climates. The spiral-shaped bacteria responsible for this infection are spread throughout soil and water via the urine of infected animals.
Leptospirosis can affect pets, people, and wildlife. Racoons, mice, squirrels, and opossums tend to be the most common carriers. Dogs are often infected due to their frequent exposure to soil, contaminated drinking water, or by coming into contact with other infected animals at dog parks or other areas where pets congregate.
Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis mainly attacks the kidneys and liver, producing symptoms that may be mild and hard to identify. Infected pets may experience vomiting, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression, or other nonspecific symptoms. If left untreated, leptospirosis can progress into kidney failure, liver failure, or a condition known as pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding from the lungs).
Treatment of leptospirosis includes antibiotics and supportive care, such as IV fluids. Treatment for secondary infections may also be necessary. When caught early enough, the prognosis is fairly good, although any damage that occurs to the kidneys or liver is permanent.
Prevention is Key
The good news regarding leptospirosis is that most cases are preventable. Depending on your pet’s risk level (hunting dogs and those who spend a lot of time outdoors will naturally be more at risk), your veterinarian may recommend a once or twice yearly leptospirosis vaccination.
You can also reduce your pet’s risk of coming into contact with the disease by taking the following actions:
- Keep your dog leashed at all times, and stay on maintained trails or paths while walking, hiking, or jogging.
- Don’t allow your pet to ingest water or soil in areas where wildlife live, including urban environments where coyotes, skunks, or racoons are found.
- Control the wildlife and rodent populations on your property with fencing and by keeping tall grasses clipped. Also remove any piles of leaves, wood, or debris (ideal places for rodents to nest).
- If you know or suspect your pet has been exposed to leptospirosis, stay away from their urine and feces. Keep your pet quarantined until you can come in to see us at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our staff for more information. We’re always here for you and your pet!