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What you should know about leptospirosis

Posted by SusanStokes on June 1, 2017

Leptospirosis is bacterial infection that can be life threatening for dogs and can cause severe illness in humans. It can be found throughout most of the United States with the exception of desert areas because it is most prevalent in warm, wet, and humid climates.

Why must one be concerned? It is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans. Many dogs are exposed to leptospirosis in environments contaminated by urine of wildlife such as raccoons, opossums, mice, moles, rats, skunks, squirrels, deer, and foxes. Leptospirosis cases are on the rise in many states, including our own state here in New Jersey.

Leptospirosis is prevalent in rural, suburban and urbanized areas. The bacteria can be present in any stagnant surface water, moist soil and recreational water sources. Keep in mind areas experiencing floods and earthquakes can be infected. Exposure risk increases during summer and early fall months as well as periods of high rainfall.

Leptospirosis spread through urine can live for a very long time in a moist or wet environment such as puddles in your back yard. Dogs are not only out in their own yards but also go to many other areas, including dog parks. These areas where many dogs urinate can concentrate and spread Leptospirosis very quietly without the owner realizing the risk. Dogs become infected more easily than humans by simply stepping in or smelling a contaminated area and then licking their paws. The disease is contagious and can be spread from dog to dog.

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Most dogs that get sick with leptospirosis will develop kidney failure or liver damage. Sometimes the kidney failure is severe enough that dialysis is required. There are many possibilities, from mild signs a pet parent may not even notice to sudden death.

Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, but with severe infections, significant organ damage may occur before antibiotics can clear the infection. Leptospirosis can also damage the eyes, lungs, and blood vessels, causing unusual signs that can be difficult to diagnose.

“An infected dog may not fall ill until days or weeks later,” advised Dr. Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital. “The first symptom might simply be that your dog is drinking or urinating more often than usual. Call your family veterinarian if you notice these changes in behavior for a proper diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital to ensure recovery.”

You can minimize your risk factors by reducing exposure to potentially infected areas. Also, talk to your veterinarian about a vaccine that can protect your dog against four strains of Leptospirosis for an entire year. There are huge benefits to vaccination against this serious disease.

A note about Leptospirosis and cats: Although cats are potentially at risk, they appear to have a natural resistance to the bacterial infection and therefore vaccination is not recommended.

Stay safe friends!

Susan, Taurus and Gemini




First published on Examiner.com - National Pet Health by Susan Stokes




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