Vet Blog

Leptospirosis in Dogs: Vaccine, Symptoms, and Treatment

September 09, 2020

Is your dog up-to-date on their immunizations?

Booster shots are just as important as puppy immunizations for preventing infectious diseases like leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and rabies. Leptospirosis in dogs is a very serious disease and can be fatal. If your dog needs treatment or vaccinations for leptospirosis, Animal Care Center of Castle Pines can help.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that attacks the entire body. The infection is transmitted when the mucus membranes or an open wound come into contact with Leptospira bacteria. As soon as they're in the bloodstream, the bacteria multiply rapidly. They spread throughout the body tissues and concentrate in the liver and kidneys, causing serious damage and even death.

How Do Dogs Get Leptospirosis?

Most dogs contract Leptospirosis by drinking stagnant water or from soil that's contaminated with the urine or feces of infected animals. Dogs will naturally be attracted to the smells of other animals and will want to get a good noseful, so keep a close watch on your dog when you are outside.

The best way to prevent infection is to reduce the risk of contact. Steer clear of dumpsters or trash that might attract critters like rats and raccoons. Avoid shared water bowls at the dog park or outside of shops. Take extra caution when you're hiking, camping, or exploring areas where wild animals live or where livestock graze.

Never let your dog drink from streams, ponds, lakes, or puddles! Besides Leptospirosis, the water might contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli, or infection-causing parasites like Giardia. Make sure to bring extra water for your dog when you go for hikes or long walks or a romp in the park.

Can Vaccinations Prevent Leptospirosis?

Because there are so many strains of Leptospira, there's still a small chance that vaccinated dogs might become infected. However, if your dog has been immunized, the illness will not be severe. Vaccinations help your dog's immune system recognize and destroy invading bacteria. Without vaccination, the disease can be fatal, so make sure to keep up with your dog's immunization schedule. The Leptospirosis vaccination lasts about 12 months, so your vet will help you schedule annual booster shots to protect your dog from infection.

Which Dogs Are Most at Risk for Leptospirosis?

New puppies are especially vulnerable, and you should minimize their contact with other dogs until they've completed their third round of immunizations. Dogs who like to swim or that spend a lot of time outdoors have a higher risk of contracting leptospirosis. Contact with other animals, including rodents, wild animals, farm animals, and even other dogs also increases the chances of catching leptospirosis.

What Symptoms Should I Watch for?

Dogs often hide their pain out of instinct, so it can be difficult to tell when they're feeling sick. Watch for changes in your dog's behavior, such as urinating more frequently or not urinating enough, reluctance to move around, or insatiable thirst. Symptoms of Leptospirosis in dogs include:

  • fever/shivering
  • muscle tenderness
  • dehydration
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • jaundice
  • swelling of the legs
  • bloody urine or stool

Is There a Treatment for Leptospirosis?

The veterinarians at Animal Care Center of Castle Pines will do everything they can to help your dog recover. First, we will prescribe a course of antibiotics to fight the invasive bacteria. We might also make additional treatment recommendations, depending on the severity of the infection. At home, the two most important things you can do are making sure your dog takes all prescribed antibiotics and keeping them hydrated.

Can People Get Leptospirosis from Dogs?

Leptospirosis is a highly infectious and zoonotic disease, which means it can spread to humans. Although it's rare for a human to contact Leptospirosis from an infected dog, proceed with caution. Wear gloves when cleaning up urine or feces and sanitize surfaces with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. Try to encourage your dog to urinate in an area that's unfrequented by other people and their pets. The bacteria can also be transmitted through saliva, so wash up after petting your dog or receiving sloppy kisses.

Contact Us

Always keep our number close by! If your dog has been exhibiting signs of Leptospirosis, call Animal Care Center of Castle Pines at (303) 688-3660 right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner we can stop the infection from spreading. Leptospirosis in dogs is a very serious disease, but it is treatable, and regular immunizations can prevent outbreaks. Protect your pet-visit our website to schedule an appointment for vaccination today.