disease control: dr. Rebecca Jackson explains leptospirosis

Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on Mar 28 2014

In recent years, you may have noticed that your veterinarian has been recommending vaccinating your dog against Leptospirosis. You may be wondering, “What is Leptospirosis and why do I need to worry about it now?” Hopefully, this blog will answer some of the questions you may have regarding the disease and help clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding it.

First of all, Leptospirosis is not a new disease; it was first identified in dogs in 1899. Although it has also been identified in cats, they don’t appear to be as susceptible as dogs, and the infection doesn’t appear to be as detrimental.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection involving one or more of the leptospirae spirochetes (spirochetes are spiral shaped bacteria that can burrow into the skin). Dogs can get leptospirosis from interaction with other animals with the disease, but more commonly, they get it from the environment.

Stagnant water sources, such us puddles, ponds and muddy areas, are particularly good areas for Leptospirosis to live. It is passed through the urine of wild animals into these water sources. All your dog has to do is walk through, drink from, or come into contact with that water source or urine and they have the possibility of being infected.

You may be wondering “What happens if my dog gets Leptospirosis?” This is a very good question. You may see any combination of the following clinical signs:

  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst
  • Yellowing of the skin and other mucous membranes
  • Odd urination behaviors
  • Red speckling of the gums or skin (look like pinpoint bruises)
  • Stiffness

The Leptospires most commonly infect the liver and the kidneys, but they can also attack other organ systems such as the eyes, central nervous system, and reproductive system. Once there, these bacteria wreak havoc and can cause severe organ damage.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll talk to you about how we diagnose and treat Leptospirosis, as well as more information about the vaccine, and an important warning for pet parents!

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