What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria.
Who gets Leptospirosis?
Dogs are most commonly affected by Leptospirosis. Risk factors include drinking from rivers, lakes, streams, roaming on rural properties, and contact with rodents.
How is Leptospirosis transmitted?
Leptospirosis is shed in the urine of infected animals. It enters through cuts, abraded skin, the eyes and mucous membranes. It can be found in puddles contaminated with rodent urine and soil. Once the bacteria is inside of the body, it begins to replicate and cause damage to internal organs.
What happens to an animal infected with Leptospirosis?
Signs of Leptospirosis include: fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency and amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), and painful inflammation within the eyes. Bleeding disorders can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool, or saliva; nosebleeds, and pinpoint red spots which may be visible on gums and other mucous membranes or on lightly colored skin. Legs may be swollen due to fluid accumulation. Kidney failure with or without liver failure may occur.
How is Leptospirosis diagnosed?
Any time that you think your pet may have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of your veterinarian or one of the veterinarians at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic. He or she will perform a thorough physical exam and may recommend other diagnostic tests such as blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, or other diagnostics that may be of assistance in assessing the health of your pet and determining the cause of any issue that the animal may be having. The veterinarian may be suspicious that Leptospirosis is the cause of disease if there is evidence of kidney or liver damage on the bloodwork. Once a diagnosis is made, the veterinarian will likely recommend hospitalizing your pet for treatment. Your pet will require hospitalization in an isolation ward due to the potential for infecting other patients in the hospital. There are special precautions that are followed during this time. If the veterinarian determines that it is appropriate for the animal to have visitors, family members will need to follow these established protocols as well for their own protection, as well as other animals that are in the hospital. For instance, family members would likely be required to wear gloves and gowns during visitation. If your pet is not well enough to have visitors, the veterinarian will let you know this as well.
What should I expect once my pet is discharged from the hospital?
The veterinarian will likely discuss with you that Leptospirosis is zoonotic. This means that is can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. It is very important that you follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. The bacteria can be transmitted for a few weeks after initiating antibiotics. Hands should be washed any time that there is contact with the infected animal. Because the bacteria is found in the urine, any urine on the grass should be diluted with water. Contact with the urine should be avoided or gloves should be worn if there is to be any contact. If the dog urinates in the home, the area should be cleaned with household disinfectant. The dog should be encouraged to urinate away from any standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access. All medications should be administered as prescribed. Re-check exams with your primary veterinarian will be required. The potential for long-term complications exists depending on the extent of kidney and/or liver damage.
Can Leptospirosis be prevented?
Annual vaccines can prevent most Leptospirosis infections. Some strains of the bacteria may not be covered by the vaccine, but these strains are less common in the United States. Reducing exposure by limiting an animal’s access to hazardous areas, such as those frequented by rats,
.is also another good way to prevent infection.