With how much rain we have had lately I thought I would write about a subject that tends to appear after periods of flooding.  Leptospirosis is a bacterium that can affect people and our dogs.  This bacterium can affect the liver, the kidneys, or both.  The bacteria are transmitted in the fluids of the body such as urine, blood, saliva, and milk.  Leptospirosis is a very serious condition for both our pets and ourselves that can lead to death.

Leptospirosis is a spirochete bacterium that enters the body via fluids.  Once there, it attacks the liver and kidneys in some animals, but in others, it can cause no problems at all.  These animals are called carrier hosts and can spread the disease for many years without having any physical effects from them.  In nature, it can stay dormant in slow-moving or stagnant water.  One of the worst areas is ponds in pastures, there tends to be high run-off into these ponds and the water definitely stagnates.  That is why there is a greater incidence of infection after flooding.  The floodwaters wash out these stagnant bodies of water releasing the bacteria.

Infections can be hard to determine with Leptospirosis.  Since it can affect multiple organs, symptoms can look very different from patient to patient.  Blood tests must be sent to a central lab for confirmation of Leptospirosis.  Symptoms can include fever, muscle tenderness, jaundice, coughing, dehydration, and bloody diarrhea or vomiting.  Of course, higher-risk animals are the ones who are loose outside, especially those who have access to pastures or wooded areas.  Unfortunately, if not treated the damage to the liver and kidneys can be severe and permanent, leading to death.

On the human side, according to the CDC, it is very rare to catch this disease from your dog.  There are around 100 cases reported annually in humans each year.  By far the majority of infected people are involved in water sports, so all you kayakers watch out!  But, this should reiterate the fact that if your pet is sick, you should wash your hands thoroughly each time you touch your pet.

Treatment is done with antibiotics, which is usually very successful.  We have to wait to see if any of the damage is permanent to the liver or kidneys though.  Instead of going through this horrible process the best thing to do is have your pet vaccinated.  Leptospirosis is usually covered with many of our vaccine protocols.   There is no better way to protect your pet.  If you have any questions about Leptospirosis, give us a call.

Make your pet’s appointment at an Express Vets location near you today!