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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which is considered a zoonotic disease as it can be transmitted from animals to humans. There are many different “strains” of leptospirosis that can affect both animals and people. Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal, and is contagious as long as the urine is still moist. Rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts—but a wide range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals carry and transmit the disease as secondary hosts.

Dogs may lick the urine of an infected animal off the grass or soil, or drink from an infected puddle. House-bound domestic dogs have contracted leptospirosis, apparently from licking the urine of infected mice in the house. The type of habitats most likely to carry infective bacteria are muddy riverbanks, ditches, gullies, and muddy livestock rearing areas where there is regular passage of wild or farm mammals. The incidence of leptospirosis correlates directly with the amount of rainfall, which unfortunately our area in known to have. Although we have known of the existence of this bacteria in our region for many years, the frequency of diagnosing this disease in our dogs appears to be increasing.

This bacteria will enter the body of a dog (or person) when the infected liquid contacts the mucous membrane lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, anus, or vulva/prepuce.

Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • increased thirst
  • muscle tenderness and or joint pain
  • lethargy

In the most serious cases, when left untreated, kidney and liver failure can develop. Similar to most diseases the earlier the detection and treatment the likely a favourable outcome for the patient. If diagnosed and treated during the early stages, the clinical cure rate for leptospirosis ranges from 75-85%. This disease can be diagnosed by both blood and urine testing if done prior to any antibiotic administration.

Preventative Leptospirosis Vaccine for Dogs

This potentially deadly bacterial disease has been diagnosed within recent years in many hospitals around the lower mainland including at Scottsdale. Our most recent case, only a few months ago, involved a dog that had never travelled outside of our local area. We have also had a few patients who we believe contracted the disease while visiting the Whistler area. Given the increasing risks to our dogs, and improved vaccines with fewer side effects, the doctors at Scottsdale have been reevaluating adding a leptospirosis component to our current vaccine protocol. Ask your veterinarian if having your dog protected against leptospirosis would be recommended.

This vaccine can be given separately or added into their “regular” distemper, parvo, hepatitis vaccine. If your dog/puppy has never had a leptospirosis vaccine it will require the first vaccine and then a separate booster 2-4 weeks later. Then this vaccine (along with any other vaccine that is required) is given on an annual basis at your dog’s yearly preventative health examination.

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