Dog owners and dogs alike go about their daily lives likely unaware of the presence of leptospira in the environment. There are many different types of leptospira and some of them can cause disease in dogs known as canine leptospirosis.
Leptospira are present in the environment because they’re harbored by animals such as skunks, raccoons, and rats. Harbored in the kidneys, leptospira will be passed into the environment whenever these carrier animals pass urine. They can shed for only a few months, while others will shed for life.
These organisms that cause leptospirosis in dogs can be found in conditions that are damp or muddy. This is why it is common for pets to develop the condition after a heavy rainfall. If you live in an area with frequent heavy rainfall, then your pet will be particularly susceptible.
Every dog that is exposed to canine leptospirosis will display visible symptoms or get sick. Younger puppies will have a higher chance of becoming visibly ill, especially those who are unvaccinated and less than six months old. Signs will develop anywhere between three days and two weeks after exposure.
Leptospirosis in dogs causes symptoms such as shivering, excessive drooling, and stiffness. Their abdominal region can be painful, so they may go around with their stomachs tucked in. Dogs can also experience joint pain, depression, and fever. If canine leptospirosis is allowed to progress, one or both of the eyes may become inflamed. The urine may also develop a slight red tint.
Leptospirosis in dogs can be a dangerous disease if left untreated. The toxins that it produces once inside the body will cause significant damage to the kidneys and liver. Eventually, they will fail and the dog may die.
Many veterinarians won’t be all that familiar with canine leptospirosis, so they can easily mistake the signs of another condition. Some of these conditions include brucellosis, herpes virus, hepatitis, and poisoning. However, vets in some areas, especially those with frequent rainfall, will be quite familiar, so they can usually diagnose the disease accurately the first time around, especially if there is a current outbreak.
In order to diagnose leptospirosis in dogs, the vet will need to take into account your dog’s symptoms, medical history, as well as environment exposure that could have led to the condition. The vet will need to perform a blood test to check the level of white blood cells. A urinalysis can also help see if there is kidney damage.
Fortunately, canine leptospirosis can be treated using various common antibiotics. As mentioned, animals can carry leptospira in their kidneys. To prevent this from happening, your dog may have to take a course of antibiotics for an extended period of time even after recovering from the disease.
If the situation is bad enough, your dog may need more advanced treatment. If vomiting is a problem, then medications can be given to reduce it. Dehydration can be kept at bay through the use of intravenous fluids. Although most cases of leptospirosis in dogs results in a full recovery, some dogs may suffer hepatitis or chronic renal failure after a bout with this disease.
There are vaccines available that can prevent canine leptospirosis. It’s important to note that there are various strains. Some vaccines guard against fewer strains than others. Since four strains are responsible for most of the cases, a vaccination that protects against those is usually the best course.
The canine leptospirosis vaccination isn’t one of most important ones to get. Therefore, you should discuss the risks and benefits with your vet. There is a chance that your dog will suffer an allergic reaction after receiving the vaccination.
It is also important to note that humans can get infected with the same organism that causes leptospirosis in dogs. You will develop some of the same symptoms if you become infected. The easiest way to prevent it is to practice appropriate sanitation methods for your dog.