As a pet owner, one of the things you’ll need to worry about is leptospirosis, whether you have a cat, dog, small rodent, or any other type of animal. A common zoonotic disease, especially in the United States, leptospirosis is just one of many different bacterial infections that can very easily afflict your pet without real symptoms for a long time.
- Causes and Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Dogs
- Can Leptospirosis Spread to People and Other Pets
- Testing for Leptospirosis in Dogs
- Leptospirosis Dog Vaccine
- Treatment for Leptospirosis in Dogs
- How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
Causes and Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Dogs
A bacteria called Leptospira causes leptospirosis. There are several different types of bacteria, and they cause an infection of the blood. It has the potential to be fatal but, thankfully, can be vaccinated against.
The problem with this zoonotic disease is that it can stay hidden for a long time. Initial symptoms are often incredibly vague, and some pets have no symptoms at all.
The most reported symptoms include:
- Reduced or no appetite;
- Drinking more than usual;
- Changes to urination — increasing or decreasing;
- Sore or tender muscles;
- No energy;
- No interest in walks or playtime;
- Yellowing skin tone (jaundice).
Later stages or severe cases of the disease can come with other symptoms, including petechiae (bleeding that happens under the skin), uveitis (sore and red eyes), and even difficulties with the respiratory system, often caused by internal bleeding within the lungs.
You should know what is normal for your pet, so you can notice things that are not normal as quickly as possible. Watching back or checking in with your interactive Petcube Camera is a great place to start.
Can Leptospirosis Spread to People and Other Pets
Yes, leptospirosis can spread to people, other pets, and a wide range of mammals. This is known as a zoonotic disease.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs are the most common animals to become infected with leptospirosis. It is both mild in severity and rare in cats.
Leptospira bacteria can be spread through contaminated water sources. The water can be ingested, or it can enter the body through open wounds and scrapes. The flesh of infected animals will also pass along the disease-causing bacteria. This can happen if a cat hunts and kills or wounds an infected rat, for example.
Other potentially contaminated materials that could spread the disease include:
- Bites or scratches from infected animals;
- Bedding material and blankets;
- Sexual activity (rare);
- During pregnancy, from mother to child.
Testing for Leptospirosis in Dogs
Because the symptoms of leptospirosis are vague, they can often be confused with other medical conditions. Dehydration from hot temperatures or direct sunlight can cause the same symptoms, as can liver issues, kidney-related problems (including failure), cancer, and more.
Stop Googling – Ask a Real Vet
Thankfully, one or more tests will confirm the presence of Leptospira. These include full blood panel tests and urine tests, with the latter considered faster and more conclusive. A vet must perform testing for leptospirosis in dogs because the symptoms alone are not enough to paint a full picture.
Leptospirosis Dog Vaccine
Veterinarians will recommend a leptospirosis vaccine for dogs in areas where the disease is rife. The vaccine isn’t part of the “core” vaccine program, but even in low-risk areas, it’s well worth getting the added protection for pets.
The vaccine doesn’t cover all strains of Leptospira bacteria, but just as with the flu vaccine in humans, it covers the most common strains. It is still possible for a dog (or other pet) to contract the bacteria and subsequent disease even if you have had them vaccinated.
You should discuss the side effects of the leptospirosis vaccine in dogs, weighing up the pros and cons. It’s not always worth subjecting your pet to a vaccine that might cause side effects when they aren’t at risk of contracting the bacteria.
Treatment for Leptospirosis in Dogs
Your vet will decide on a treatment plan that works for your dog and their specific leptospirosis-related problems. Many fit and healthy pups will often have mild cases with no symptoms, and that require no treatment.
If diagnosed in its initial stages, home treatment, usually with antibiotics and other medications, is an option for leptospirosis.
Later or more severe cases require a trip to the pet hospital and likely a brief stay, too. Specific symptoms are dealt with, such as treating nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with stomach-settling and anti-nausea/vomiting medication. Fluids help combat dehydration when administered via an IV.
Damage to the kidneys and liver can lead to long-term care, medication, and monitoring.
How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
According to Pawlicy study, the cost of diagnosis and treatment for leptospirosis in dogs is, on average, around $2,000. It can cause life-threatening emergencies, especially with damage to vital organs such as the kidneys and liver. Breathing struggles, the leakage and buildup of fluids (blood, etc.) into the abdominal cavity, and other serious complications can arise because of this disease.
Petcube’s Emergency Fund offers up to $3,000 worth of emergency veterinary care per year, covering up to six of your furry friends, with an online service that allows you to speak to licensed professionals from the comfort of your own home without needing to make an appointment or pay the price of one.
How Can I Keep Myself Safe When My Dog Has Leptospirosis?
Good hygiene is necessary when you have a pet with this bacterial infection. Bodily fluids from an infected animal are dangerous, so you will need to steer clear.
Clean bodily fluids with cleaning products that are specifically antibacterial, wear gloves when managing such materials, and wash your hands regularly.
How Long is a Dog with Leptospirosis Contagious?
A dog can be contagious with Leptospira bacteria without showing symptoms or experiencing other health concerns. It’s thought that they could be contagious even months after diagnosis and treatment. Most organizations suggest a quarantine period, of sorts, of a minimum of six weeks. Your vet can tell you, following tests, whether your pup is still contagious.
When it has the potential to be so deadly, leptospirosis is not the kind of doggy drama you can take the ‘wait and see’ approach to. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, whether it’s to do with their diet, toilet habits, general temperament, or specific symptoms, it’s always better to get a qualified opinion.
If in doubt, start that conversation. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?