Infectious Disease – Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis – Most pet owners had never even heard of this infectious disease before the widespread infections caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But this disease, caused by a spiral shaped bacteria called leptospires, can affect dogs, cats, horses and even humans in many situations.The dangers posed by leptospirosis include kidney and liver failure, and possibly even death. It is spread through the urine of infected animals and can survive for weeks in water or soil. It was the floodwaters of Katrina that lead to the widespread outbreak of leptospirosis in 2005; however, the bacteria can be carried by wildlife common to rural areas and suburbs, such as skunks and raccoons. This puts any pets or humans who come into contact with contaminated water, soil or animals at risk of infection.

Symptoms in dogs may include fever, depression, loss of appetite, joint pain, nausea, excessive drinking, jaundice and excess bleeding brought on by low platelet count. But it’s also possible an infected pet will show no clinical signs. Once an animal is exposed to the bacteria, it typically takes a week or two for the disease to develop, so dog owners who allow their pets access to environments shared by wild animal populations should pay special attention to their dogs’ behavior.

If you think your dog shows any of these symptoms, your veterinarian can do diagnostic blood and urine tests. Leptospirosis can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics, and early treatment leads to quicker recovery and less damage to major organs. Intravenous fluids may be necessary if there has been kidney impairment. The prognosis depends on the extent of organ damage involved.

No rma l l y, pet owners don’t run much risk of contracting leptospirosis from their dogs—unless they have direct or indirect contact with contaminated animal tissues, organs or urine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a third of human leptospirosis cases resulted from contact with infected dogs and another third from contact with rats (usually through field work). Human symptoms would be similar to those in dogs.,/p>

Your first line of defense is prevention. Although current vaccines aren’t 100% effective, and some animals may have reactions to them, we still recommend vaccination. Discuss the options with your veterinarian to help protect your family from this dangerous disease.

Compliments of VCA Animal Hospitals

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