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Leptospirosis Disease

June 15, 2014

Leptospirosis is an emerging disease that has been around forever. Historically, a rural location where dogs hunted or had contact with surface water was the principal environmental risk factor. But as residential neighborhoods encroach on areas inhabited by wildlife, dogs are at increased risk of exposure.  Mice, rats, skunks, raccoons and even farm animals can shed the bacteria.

The problem for people is that infected animals, whether they appear sick or not, shed the bacteria in their urine. The bacteria can remain viable for months in slow or stagnant, warm water. The disease tends to be seasonal in temperate climates. Occurrence in the US peaks in late summer and fall, with rainfall 3 months ago being a predicator of occurrence of leptospirosis in dogs.  In arid climates infection is more common in proximity to water like your lawn where the children play. A poodle in Portland contracted the disease in their backyard.

The difficulty in diagnosing leptospirosis is that clinical symptoms mimic many other diseases such as vomiting, lethargy and anorexia. Other significant signs may include conjunctivitis, coughing, increased water consumption, increased or decreased urination, yellow colored gums or red blotches on the gums.

The most obvious method of prevention is to avoid all exposure to flooded areas, stagnant water, areas where dogs and wildlife frequent, streams, rivers, rodents, wildlife and silent carrier dogs, in other words, virtual isolation in the house.

Fortunately there is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent leptospirosis. Call your veterinarian to set up an appointment.

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