Woodland Creatures or Harbingers of Disease? A Look at the Risks of Leptospirosis
Pet owners are tasked with making the best decisions for their pets, but the road to informed choices can be full of questions or concerns. Disease prevention is just one area of pet care that deserves careful consideration, especially when it comes to a complicated disease known as Leptospirosis.
With the right information about prevention, exposure, health risks, treatments, and prognosis, many owners opt for vaccination.
Setting the Scene
Leptospirosis, or Lepto, is a bacterial disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria. Spread by rodents and other wildlife like raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, deer, and other mammalian species (including people), Lepto is typically spread by urine.
While cats can contract the disease, it is rare. Dogs, however, are quite susceptible to the disease; which is why we advocate vaccinating your dog against it.
Direct contact with an infected mammal (unvaccinated pet or wildlife) or exposure to contaminated soil or other surfaces/items can spread the Leptospira bacteria. However, absorption through the skin during wading/swimming or drinking from suspicious bodies of water may increase the risk of infection.
Leptospirosis enters the bloodstream and multiplies quickly throughout body tissue. It can affect the kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, eyes and genital tract. The following symptoms require emergency veterinary intervention:
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle tenderness or pain
Intravenous fluid therapy and antibiotics are necessary to treat Lepto, but that doesn’t mean an infected pet is out of the woods. The bacteria can persist for months in the kidneys. What’s worse is that even when a pet has recovered from Leptospirosis they can still be a carrier of the disease, spreading it to other pets and people.
All dogs can contract Lepto, but those with outdoors-y lifestyles and who come in close contact with other dogs (such as at doggie daycares and boarding facilities) are considered to be at higher risk.
Preventing Leptospirosis is easy with a routine vaccination, and we’re always happy to discuss whether or not this is the right choice for your dog.
To keep your pet extra safe from Leptospirosis, we offer the following tips about this dangerous bacteria:
- Discourage your pet from drinking out of puddles, ponds or other unfamiliar sources of water
- Because the bacteria can persist in the environment for months in the soil, be aware that standing water or flooding can increase risk
- The incubation period can take 4-12 days after being exposed to the bacteria
- Blood work and urinalysis are necessary to confirm Lepto; please don’t wait to seek emergency help (Lepto can be life-threatening)
- Because people can be infected by the Leptospira bacteria, it’s critical to clean up after an infected pet with gloves and bleach
- Aim to separate an infected pet from other household animals until no longer contagious
- Vaccinate your pets from Leptospirosis and stay current with boosters annually
Vaccinations are a big part of pet wellness. If we can assist you with questions or concerns about preventing the spread of disease, please contact us. Our staff at Old Derby Animal Hospital are always here for you.