Leptospirosis In Dogs
May 31, 2023 | 3 min read
Updated May 31, 2023
By Sarah Milton
Published: June 2, 2023
Summary: “What is leptospirosis in dogs?” Learn about the symptoms, stages, treatment, and the leptospirosis vaccine here...
What Is Leptospirosis In Dogs?
Canine leptospirosis is a very serious condition; a bacterial infection that can cause life-threatening illness in dogs. It damages the vital organs – typically the liver and the kidneys – and, although very rarely, it can be transmitted to humans too (although the human infection is known more widely as Weil’s disease).
A dog is at a much higher risk of contracting the disease if they frequently swim in bodies of freshwater, are working dogs, live on farms, and/or catch rodents. This is because leptospirosis is usually caught and passed between rats, mice, cows, and dogs, usually via urine, and can be transmitted via the mouth, nose, or wounded areas of the body. It can also be caught from infected water – the virus can stay active in the water for several months too.
A dog may catch leptospirosis by licking or sniffing the ground where an infected animal has urinated, by spending time, catching, or playing with infected animals or by swimming in contaminated water.
Symptoms of leptospirosis can vary case-to-case, but signs of the infection can include:
- Yellowing of the gum and eyes (jaundice)
- Elevated body temperature
- Weakness/physical collapse/reluctance to move
- Increased thirst
- Decreased appetite
- Mouth ulcers
- Bloody, loose stools
- Bleeding from the eyes
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Bleeding from the nose
- Labored breathing
- Changes in urinary frequency
If you spot any of the above symptoms in your dog, contact your vet as a matter of urgency – especially if your dog is unvaccinated or behind on their routine shots.
If caught early, antibiotics and IV drips may be able to fight off the disease. However, if a dog does become very ill with leptospirosis, recovery is unlikely. In these cases, a vet may suggest euthanizing them to prevent them from being in pain.
Dogs must be treated in complete isolation due to the infectiousness of the disease. They must also be kept in isolation for a certain period of time once recovered as transmittable bacteria can remain present in the urine for some time, even after symptoms subside.
It’s worth noting that in most cases, dogs do not survive leptospirosis. This is why vaccination and staying on top of your dog’s routine shots are so important.
Leptospirosis Vaccine For Dogs
Your dog should receive a leptospirosis vaccination annually. Their first should be administered as part of their first bout of routine puppy shots, from which they are considered protected from about 14 days after administration.
This is why it’s stressed that puppies shouldn’t be taken out for walks on the ground, taken to bodies of freshwater, or socialized with unvaccinated dogs until their first vaccination course is complete. One shot provides protection for around 1 year.
Treating diseases like Leptospirosis or Canine Distemper can be incredibly costly. Vaccinating against diseases like this is imperative for your dog’s protection as well as the most cost-effective way of caring for a dog. You are highly encouraged to insure your pet from the date you own them, so you’re financially supported through unexpected health issues they may encounter throughout their life with you.
“Leptospirosis In Dogs” PDSA https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/leptospirosis-in-dogs
“Leptospirosis” American Veterinary Medical Association https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/leptospirosis
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!