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Leptospirosis in Dogs

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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection in dogs. They acquire when the bacteria leptospira enters a dog’s system by penetrating the skin and through the bloodstream’s medium; it spreads through your dog’s body. Spreading throughout the body, Leptospires reproduce in a dog’s liver, kidneys, eyes, central nervous system and reproductive system. Fever and bacterial infection of the blood is commonly seen in dogs soon after the initial infection.

The bacteria Leptospira is zoonotic, which means that this type of disease can also be transmitted to humans and other animals who contact the infected dog.

The leptospirosis infection in dogs can be fatal for your dog, and if not provided proper, timely treatment, the infection can cause severe damage to the infected organs. Moreover, younger animals are more at risk of severe complications as they have lesser developed immune systems.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis in dogs:

leptospirosis disease in dogs

Some of the most common symptoms of Leptospirosis, which can help a pet owner get their pet the care they need, include:

  • Sudden fever & illness
  • Shivering
  • Stiffness in muscles & legs
  • Sore muscles & reluctance to move
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Rapid dehydration
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Inability to urinate, which may progress to kidney failure
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting, with or without blood
  • Diarrhea, with or without blood
  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Unprompted cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Irregular pulse
  • Runny nose
  • Swelling of mucous membrane
  • Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes
  • Dark red speckled gums

How is Leptospirosis diagnosed in dogs?

When you take your dog to the vet, one of the first things he may look into is your dog’s leptospirosis vaccine status. You may also have to answer some questions about whether your dog has somehow been exposed to the bacteria and if your dog has a history of any other disease. However, the next step might be a full physical examination to get all the other required clinical information that your vet may need.

Moreover, there are two ways to diagnose leptospirosis infection in a dog; the first is to confirm the presence or absence of infection by testing a urine sample. The second way is to look for an ever-increasing amount of antibodies to Leptospira in the dog; this represents the body’s active immune reaction, as a test known as the microscopic agglutination test.

How can prevent Leptospirosis?

leptospirosis infection in dogs

Leptospirosis infection is becoming more and more common in companion animals, particularly in dogs. It is rather very fortunate that Leptospirosis is treatable and curable. However, veterinary professionals are finding it to be increasingly difficult to diagnose and treat the infectious disease of Leptospirosis, as the Leptospira organism are persistently mutating.

Vaccines for Leptospirosis are available, and they are even recommended in places where Lepto infection is common. However, the vaccines for Leptospirosis are only produced for some particular kinds of Leptospira bacteria. They don’t provide immunity to infection for the long term, so the vaccines need to be repeated as often as prescribed by an authorized doctor.

Even though the available vaccines are not exactly 100 percent effective and don’t protect against all Leptospira varieties, they are still recommended as they can help prevent a possibly severe disease that can also be transmitted to people.

Moreover, before implementing vaccines and vaccination schedules, you also recommend that you discuss them with your vet to ensure they are appropriate for you, depending on your dog’s risk factors.

Furthermore, taking necessary rodent control measures helps reduce the risk of infection. In places where Leptospirosis is common, it is only smart to prevent your dogs from swimming in ponds and other slow-moving water bodies and getting exposure to places with high contamination possibility.

Early Leptospirosis treatment in dogs

In serious leptospirosis cases, the dog may need to be hospitalized, and intravenous fluid may become necessary to ensure dehydration is in check. Moreover, if the infected dog has internal bleeding, then a blood transfusion might be necessary as well. It is also a good idea to make sure that you are good with dog insurance to help you cover the high bills from your vet.

It is pretty obvious; the earlier your dog’s treatment has started, the better chances there are for your dog to survive the infection. Generally, the basic method of treatment is administering antibiotics. Penicillin or doxycycline are preferred and the usual course of treatment for leptospirosis infection when diagnosed early. However, at a carrier stage of infection, these medications may be useless, as your dog will now be needing stronger antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones and tetracyclines.

Major Leptospirosis treatment options for dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

To tend to any dehydration with an intravenous fluid solution, look into any other symptom of shock and ensure an appropriate electrolyte balance is restored in your Leptospirosis infected dog. They may need to get hospitalized for a short period when diagnosed.

As mentioned above, oral penicillin antibiotics are normally the first medication choice as treatment of a Leptospirosis infected dog. Moreover, as a result of leptospirosis infection, when suffering from an acute renal kidney failure, they will need to get their urine output and their blood pressure monitored so that professionals can keep track of the dog’s kidney function. Furthermore, as a result of gastrointestinal bleeding, if a dog loses too much blood, then a blood transfusion can be essential as well.

Also, it is very important that all cautions are being taken when you have a Leptospirosis infected dog, such as iodine-based disinfectants or bleach products should be used to sanitize every surface like the kennels, where infected dog live and more attention should be given to areas where it may have urinated. Maintaining strict hygiene for the kennel is very important for the proper management of leptospirosis disease. Moreover, when cleaning an infected dog’s living quarters or working with the animal, the caretakers or owners should wear gloves. However, in extreme cases, some Leptospirosis infected dogs end up with complications like chronic liver and kidney damage, which may not be that easily manageable.


Necessary home care for a pet with Leptospirosis

If your dog is diagnosed with Leptospirosis, you can minimize the possible risks primarily with carefully maintained hygiene. In reality, it is often seen that pets who do not show visible signs of infection, and therefore they are not diagnosed and given the necessary treatment of antibiotics to prevent bacteria shedding in urine, possibly carry a greater risk of transmitting the infection their owners.

However, here are few steps to follow when your pet is diagnosed with Leptospirosis, to prevent infections from spreading:

  • Make an extra effort to avoid contact with your dog’s urine and if you need to handle urine, make sure you have taken protective measures, such as wearing gloves.
  • Be more careful with general good hygiene practices, such as carefully washing your hands.
  • Use antibacterial disinfectant or diluted bleach solution to disinfect the surface areas where your infected dog has urinated.
  • Carefully follow treatment advice from your vet and ensure all prescribed medications are being taken as directed.

Lastly, if any person becomes ill after being in contact with a Leptospirosis-diagnosed dog, make sure you mention the dog’s infection to your health care provider.


As long as the disease is quickly and properly diagnosed and treated, most dogs who get the clinical disease from Leptospirosis have a fairly good prognosis. However, the prognosis for recovery and the treatment process is more guarded when a dog’s symptoms come suddenly and are rather serious.

Unfortunately, in some cases, dogs may develop permanent and irreversible damage to the kidney or liver. Hence, aggressive and timely treatment is critical for both the dog and all people in contact with the infected dog.

As Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, any person can get infected with the disease if they contact the infected animal, especially with the urine of the infected animal. The chances of any person getting infected are high when they live together with the infected dog. Even when these dogs don’t show any apparent signs of the illness, they are still shedding the bacteria in the urine, which become the source of possible infection for people and other animals around.

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