News & Info

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete.  These bacteria are found in many different species of animals, including both wildlife and domesticated animals.  An animal with an active Leptospirosis infection can shed the bacteria in the urine, which can then be ingested by our pets – usually by drinking from contaminated water sources.  Any dog with frequent exposure to outdoor water sources is going to be at increased risk for Leptospirosis.  Although cats can be exposed to Leptospira, it is extremely rare for a cat to develop serious disease due to these bacteria. 

There are many types of these bacteria, but they all cause similar signs of disease.  These signs can be vague, and can sometimes be mistaken for other illnesses.  Signs include:

  • Fever & lethargy

  • Vomiting & abdominal pain

  • Generalized muscle pain and malaise

  • Increased thirst and increased urination

     If your dog is ill, and we suspect Leptospirosis, we may want to run some tests to help determine if that’s the true cause.  Most commonly these tests will include general bloodwork, a urine test, and a more specific test for Leptospirosis.  Luckily the bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are fairly weak, and generally respond well to treatment.  In some cases, however, Leptospirosis can be fatal if the liver and kidneys are damaged severely by the bacteria. 

                Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease – this means that it can be passed from animals to humans, and vice versa.  In parts of the world with poor water sanitation Leptospirosis in humans can cause localized epidemics, and can cause illness and even loss of life. 

                There is a vaccine available for Leptospirosis in dogs.  Not every dog is at high risk for Leptospirosis, so we make the decision on whether or not to use this vaccine based on each dog’s individual lifestyle.  If you think your dog may be at risk for Leptospirosis remember to discuss the vaccine with us at your next annual checkup.