Sep 03 2015

Beware of Leptospirosis in the Fall!


 Beware of Leptospirosis in the Fall!

by Dr. Sarah Tew, Animal Medical Center of Cascades



Late summer and early Fall bring an increased incidence of Leptospirosis in dogs. Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria in the Leptospira family, which are most commonly transmitted in the urine of mammalian wildlife. Since the Algonkian area is mostly wooded and we host a healthy population of wildlife, most dogs in our area are at risk for contracting Leptospirosis. Interestingly enough, cats do not contract the disease.

Leptospirosis is underdiagnosed due to the vague signs it can cause. The liver and kidneys are the most common organs to be affected by Leptospirosis, ranging from mild to life-threatening illness. The common signs dogs exhibit after contracting Leptospirosis are: fever, lethargy, muscle and joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst or urination, much like having the flu in people.

If your pet exhibits symptoms of Leptospirosis, your veterinarian should run general bloodwork and a urinalysis, as well as antibody titers to detect an immune response in the blood.  Most animals with illness consistent with Leptospirosis need to be hospitalized on intravenous fluids and antibiotics for several days, and sometimes can be left with permanent liver and kidney damage.

It is important to know that Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted to humans from animals. People can acquire the disease from wildlife, in slow moving water, or from the urine of infected pet dogs.

A vaccination against four different types of Leptospira bacteria is widely used and reliable for decreasing severity of disease, as well as prevention of the bacteria shedding in the urine to prevent human infection.  After an initial series of two vaccines given three weeks apart, the vaccine is given annually. Leptospirosis is an important disease to prevent due to the risk of severe, life-threatening illness to both pets and humans.


Please visit for more information about pet health. The information in this article is not intended to substitute the advice of your family veterinarian.


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