Have you seen reports of lepto, or leptospirosis, in the news lately? What is lepto, and do you need to be worried about your dog getting sick from it? How is it spread? Do you need to worry about your family catching it if your dog becomes infected? Is there a vaccine, and should you give it to your dog? We know you may have a lot of questions about lepto, and we’re here to provide you with some answers. Here are 4 things you should know about leptospirosis.
#1 – It’s transmitted through urine
Lepto is transmitted through the urine of infected animals. It is found in wildlife such as rats, pigs, raccoons, cattle, foxes, skunks, and opossums and is commonly distributed through standing water such as ponds, puddles, and areas of water runoff. Dogs that spend a lot of time swimming, drinking, or playing in natural water sources are the most susceptible to lepto. It can also be passed to humans, so you’ll want to be extra careful around your dog if he’s diagnosed with lepto. You should clean any accidents in the house with an enzymatic cleaner as soon as possible, and be sure to wear disposable gloves while cleaning it. Even if your dog is no longer showing symptoms, they can still spread the bacteria. You may want to keep kids and other pets away from an infected dog until he no longer tests positive for lepto.
#2 – Symptoms
Some dogs who contract lepto show no symptoms at all. According to PetMD, other dogs may experience:
- Sudden fever and illness
- Sore muscles, reluctance to move
- Stiffness in muscles, legs, stiff gait
- Lack of appetite
- Increased thirst and urination, may be indicative of chronic renal (kidney) failure, progressing to inability to urinate
- Rapid dehydration
- Vomiting, possibly with blood
- Diarrhea – with or without blood in stool
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Dark red speckled gums (petechiae)
- Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes – anemic symptoms
- Spontaneous cough
- Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, irregular pulse
- Runny nose
- Swelling of the mucous membranes
- Mild swelling of the lymph nodes
If your dog displays any of those symptoms, they should be taken to the vet immediately. Delayed diagnosis can lead to more serious problems such as organ damage.
#3 – It’s treatable
Since lepto is caused by a bacteria, it can be treated with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early enough. While a delayed diagnosis may lead to severe problems, most dogs recover with no long-lasting ill effects.
#4 – There is a vaccine
If your dog is at high risk for catching lepto, there is a vaccine available, but it comes with a high risk of side effects, including developing lepto. Talk to your vet about whether or not they recommend it for your dog. Those with healthy immune systems may be better off not getting the vaccine. Only your vet knows your dog well enough to decide if the benefits of the vaccination would outweigh the risks for your dog.