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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis poses a significant health risk, stemming from a bacterial infection primarily transmitted through water and soil tainted with infected urine. In this post, our Fort Worth vets explain leptospirosis in dogs, and how to diagnose and treat it. 

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

A bacterium known as Leptospira is found in water and soil and can contaminate a substance through contact with urine. In this case, the bacteria can spread to animals and your family members, and cause the disease we know as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is also seen in cats, which feed on host animals such as rodents. 

While this bacteria and the disease can be found anywhere, it's proven to be more commonly seen in warmer areas that experience higher levels of rainfall. 

Since leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to humans. People can contract leptospirosis from contaminated water sources, livestock, wild animals, and other pets. Most leptospirosis outbreaks in humans are caused by contact with contaminated water. 

How is leptospirosis in dogs transmitted?

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to any pet regardless of where they live. Some factors that may increase your pet's risk of contracting the disease are:

  • Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that can pass infected urine, even in your backyard 
  • Exposure to or drinking from puddles, rivers, lakes, or streams 
  • Contact with rodents, such as rats or squirrels, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, urban areas, or facilities where multiple dogs are housed) 

What are the most common symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?

Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Shivering or fever
  • Increased drinking or urination
  • Decreased appetite or not eating
  • Depression
  • Inability to have puppies
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, or reluctance to move
  • Weakness
  • Red eye

How is leptospirosis in dogs diagnosed & treated?

Our vets in Fort Worth offer the Microscopic Agglutination Test. This is the gold standard for diagnosing leptospirosis during routine exams, and it detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in the dog's blood. Infection is confirmed if the level of antibodies is high enough.

Leptospirosis can be treated with prescription antibiotics, preventing other household members from becoming infected.

How does the MAT work?

While the MAT stands as a commendable diagnostic tool, it does come with its set of constraints. Compared to the DNA-PCR test, it operates slowly, often taking several days for laboratory results to materialize. Furthermore, confirmation of infection may require a subsequent test, known as a convalescent sample, elongating the diagnostic process. In addition, test outcomes might prove inconclusive if the patient has received prior leptospirosis vaccination or early antibiotic treatment, hindering accurate diagnosis.

Various in-clinic tests with analogous MAT functionalities exist, albeit with similar limitations. Nonetheless, they present advantages in specific scenarios by facilitating a faster diagnosis.

How is leptospirosis in dogs prevented?

As with many other diseases, preventing leptospirosis is far more beneficial than treating it. If your dog hasn't been immunized against this disease, consult your veterinarian to see if it's a good idea for your dog's lifestyle.

The chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis, if the disease is found early enough, are exceptional — the survival rate in these circumstances is around 80%. However, their kidney and liver function can be severely impaired. Thus, it's always best to prevent the disease with vaccination.

At Fort Worth vet clinic, we offer the leptospirosis dog vaccine between 9 and 11 weeks of age as part of our dog's vaccine schedule. If you need a vet, contact us or try searching for the term "vets near me" on Google. After their primary leptospirosis vaccination, they require a booster shot three to four weeks later. Beyond that, annual vaccines will be required to protect your dog throughout its lifetime.

Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, if you suspect your dog is infected, avoid touching their urine with your bare skin and always wash your hands after petting them. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning an area your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your dog has urinated. A diluted bleach solution or a household disinfectant is one of the best ways to disinfect your home.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog due for the leptospirosis vaccine, or are you concerned about the symptoms of this disease? Contact our vets in Fort Worth today to book a vaccination appointment for your dog.

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We're accepting new patients at A-Animal Clinic & Boarding Kennel! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Fort Worth. Get in touch today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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