What is leptospirosis?

Our Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic has seen an alarming increase in cases of leptospirosis in dogs recently. This disease is typically seen in dogs but can easily be transmitted to their loving owners. Our Los Angeles vets are here to discuss the symptoms you need to look out for, and tips to protect your pet.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease that can diminish the health of your dog, farm animals, and even your family. It develops when bacteria called Leptospira (which is found globally in water and soil) contaminates a substance through contact with urine. We have also seen cases of leptospirosis in cats because they often feed on host animals such as rodents.

This bacteria has been reported just about everywhere, it is most commonly found in warmer climates that are prone to large amounts of rainfall. Studies have found that this disease has slowly spread into regions of the United States, such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. 

While this bacteria is found everywhere, it is more frequently found in warmer climates that get larger quantities of rain. Studies show that the disease has gradually spread into the Western regions of the United States, such as Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. It seems as though this disease has made its way into California as our Los Angeles vets have seen a rather large increase in cases lately.

Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it's possible for it to be transmitted from animals to people. Just like pets, people can also contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, wild animals, livestock, and other pets. The majority of leptospirosis outbreaks in people are from exposure to infected water.

How do dogs develop leptospirosis?

Every pet is at risk of catching leptospirosis, regardless of where they live in the world (urban, suburban or rural areas). The following factors can increase your pet's risk:

  • Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your own backyard
  • Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
  • Contact with rodents, such as squirrels or rats, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed or urban areas)

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?

Common signs of leptospirosis in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Shivering or fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Increased drinking and/or urination
  • Decreased appetite or not eating
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • Inability to have puppies
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, or reluctance to move

Testing For Leprospirosis

Microscopic Agglutination Test: This is the standard test for diagnosing leptospirosis, and is designed to detect the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's blood. If the level of antibodies (called a "titer") is high enough, then infection is confirmed.

Preventing & Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs

As with many other diseases, prevention of leptospirosis is much more beneficial than having to treat the disease. If your pooch hasn't been vaccinated for this disease, talk with your vet to ask if it would be an appropriate vaccination for your dog's lifestyle.

Our vets at Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic offer the leptospirosis vaccine for puppies between 10 and 12 weeks of age as part of our vaccine schedule for dogs. After their primary leptospirosis vaccination, they will require a booster shot three to four weeks later. Beyond that, annual vaccines will be required to protect your dog throughout its lifetime.

Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to you, if you believe that your dog might be suffering from this disease, avoid touching their urine with your bare skin, and always wash your hands after petting them. Make sure to wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas that your dog may have soiled, and properly disinfect anywhere your dog has urinated. One of the best methods for disinfecting your home is to use a diluted bleach solution or use a household disinfectant.

Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, which can also prevent other members of your household from becoming infected.

Due to the high demand for the vaccination for leptospirosis at Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic, we have limited appointment times and are expecting longer than anticipated wait times. Contact us today to be added to our next available appointment.