Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can impact dogs, farm animals and wild animals as well as to people. Our La Mesa veterinarians list the signs and symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs and what you can do to protect your canine companion.
What is leptospirosis in dogs?
Leptospirosis is a disease that affects dogs, farm animals and wild animals along with humans. Caused by the bacteria Leptospira, which can be found worldwide in soil and water that’s been contaminated with infected urine.
While this bacteria can occur anywhere, it is more common in warmer climates that have high annual rainfall. Studies indicate the disease has gradually spread to the Western United States, including Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted from animals to people. Similar to pets, people can also catch leptospirosis from wild animals, livestock, pets and even contaminated sources of water. The latter is the cause of most outbreaks of leptospirosis in humans.
How can my dog contract leptospirosis?
Every dog is at risk of developing leptospirosis, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area. Common risk factors include:
- Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your own backyard
- Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers or puddles
- Contact with rodents, such as squirrels or rats, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed or urban areas)
What are the signs of leptospirosis in dogs?
Common signs of leptospirosis in dogs include:
- Shivering or fever
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)
- Decreased appetite or not eating
- Increased drinking and/or urination
- Conjunctivitis (red eye)
- Muscle pain, stiffness or reluctance to move
Prevention and treatment of leptospirosis in dogs
Similar to many other diseases, it’s always better — and easier — to prevent leptospirosis than to treat it. If your pet has never had a vaccine for this disease, ask your vet when and if your dog should have one based on your pet’s risks and options.
Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, owners of dogs that may have had the disease should avoid touching their dog’s urine with bare skin and wash hands after petting the dog. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your pup has urinated. You can use a diluted bleach solution or household disinfectant to kill the bacteria.
Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, which can prevent other members of your household from infection.