What You Need to Know About Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in dogs is a dangerous bacterial infection that can cause a whole host of problems for your pet, but what makes this disease an even bigger problem (and completely different than other types of dog diseases) is the fact that it can be spread from animals to humans.

Another big problem with canine leptospirosis is the fact that some animals do not show any symptoms of the disease.

Animals that do not show any symptoms of the disease may be carrying it in their kidneys, where it causes little to no problems for these animals.

Other animals may simply be at too early of a stage of the disease for it to be detected and cause any symptoms.

Leptospirosis can be carried by almost any animal, and sometimes dogs may get it from simply sniffing the infected animal’s urine.

A 2007 study conducted in Michigan found that a quarter of all dogs that were not vaccinated for leptospirosis had antibodies for the disease in their blood, which means that the dogs had leptospirosis at some point without their owners even being aware that they were sick.

While this is good news that leptospirosis in dogs is often not dangerous at all, it also can be frightening because it means that more dogs are carrying canine leptospirosis than it is possible to even know.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis

When symptoms of leptospirosis do show up, they usually begin with fever, followed by depression. These dogs may drink even more water than they usually do because the fever is causing their bodies to dry out. The dogs may also feel very cold and stiff.

If the disease is allowed to progress, then the dogs may also begin to vomit and drool excessively.

If the disease progresses even further, then some dogs develop uveitis, which is an inflammation of the eye.

Some dogs begin to have urine that is tinged with red, and they may also begin to experience problems with their nervous systems.

By this point, dehydration also sets in, and the dog loses all interest in eating or drinking. Usually a dog that is close to death from leptospirosis will experience a sudden drop in body temperature.

There are also some symptoms that can be associated with leptospirosis but are much less common than the other symptoms that have already been listed.

Leptospirosis in dogs can severely damage the liver, causing jaundice, which appears as a yellow tinge on the animal’s skin.

Some dogs also develop hepatitis or kidney failure, and the disease can also prevent the animal’s blood from clotting, causing serious bleeding problems.

Diagnosis of leptospirosis

Canine leptospirosis can be very difficult to diagnose because not all dogs have the same symptoms in the same order.

This is why it may take several visits to the veterinarian before the diagnosis is discovered.

Usually the veterinarian will need to order some blood tests, which will indicate a large number of white blood cells.

The problem with a blood test is that if the dog is still in the early stages of the infection, it will show that the white blood cell count is actually low instead of high.

This can cause the veterinarian to make a different initial diagnosis. The problem with running blood tests to check for leptospirosis in dogs is that there are also many different diseases that can cause large variations in the number of white blood cells in the dogs' blood.

Many veterinarians will usually run another test called a PCR test to confirm if canine leptospirosis is the problem.

Treatment of leptospirosis

Thankfully, leptospirosis in dogs is very easy to treat once the diagnosis is reached. Most antibiotics will take care of the disease, and veterinarians may recommend an extended antibiotic treatment period to help ensure that your dog will not be a carrier of the disease.

Usually veterinarians will also prescribe additional medications to help with any of the other symptoms the animal is experiencing.

They may prescribe something to help reduce vomiting and place the dog on IV fluids to help minimize the effects of dehydration.

In general, most pets that do get leptospirosis will recover, although the disease can cause irreversible organ failure in others.

Prevention of leptospirosis

The best way to keep your dog safe from leptospirosis is to have him vaccinated. However, the vaccine is not commonly administered to dogs unless pet owners ask for it.

Veterinarians will help the dog owner consider whether the animal should actually have the vaccine because there are more documented cases of negative side effects with this vaccine than there are for other vaccinations that are typically given to pets.

This is especially true for toy breeds such as Yorkies. They have a high reaction rate to the vaccine. Due to this is will not be recommended unless the disease is prevalent in your area.

Also it is possible that the vaccination will not work at all. The answer of whether to vaccinate your dog against this disease depends entirely whether your dog is likely to come into contact with the disease.

For example, dog owners who work in an animal shelter may want to vaccinate their own dogs against it because they will have a lot more contact with animals that might carry the disease.

If vaccination is recommended, then the shots will be given starting when the puppy is four months old. Veterinarians will usually give this shot by itself because of all the documented risks associated with it.

Catching Leptospirosis from your Dog

As mentioned earlier, leptospirosis is one of the few dog diseases that can be passed to humans.

The disease causes the same symptoms in people as it does in animals. If your dog does get leptospirosis, then make sure that you avoid contact with the dog's urine.

This may seem easy, but the animal's urine can get on your shoes if you walk in the yard, and then you could get the disease by touching your shoes.

Also it isn't a bad idea to keep the dog's urine on hard surfaces like the sidewalk or driveway. This way you can pour bleach directly over the area right after the dog urinates.

If she won't urinate on a hard surface, then you should still cover the grass with bleach. It is much better to kill some grass than to spread this disease.

Also make sure that you are washing your hands with antibacterial soap frequently to avoid spreading leptospirosis in dogs.

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