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What is Leptospirosis (Lepto)?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by Leptospira bacteria, which can be found worldwide in slow-moving or stagnant water, in wet/shaded grass, and along the banks of rivers or lakes. Both animals AND humans can contract Leptospirosis.

Dogs can become infected and develop Leptospirosis if their mucous membranes (or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape) come into contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by eating infected animals; and rarely, through breeding. It can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies. Leptospirosis is most frequently transmitted by infected rodents!

Some infected dogs do not show any signs of illness; some have a mild and transient illness and recover spontaneously; and others develop severe, life-threatening illness. Furthermore, the symptoms of Leptospirosis can be very non-specific including fever, stiffness/soreness, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, lethargy,jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and painful inflammation of the eyes.

More severe cases can result in kidney failure, liver failure, severe lung disease (causing difficulty breathing), bleeding disorders and edema (accumulation of excess fluid in the limbs, lungs and abdomen). Leptospirosis infection can be fatal. Those cases that do recover can have permanent, irreparable, kidney and liver damage.

Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. If treated early and aggressively infected animals can recover. However, the disease can also be fatal or result in permanent kidney and liver damage.

Why Should I Vaccinate my Dog Against Leptospirosis?

  1. Leptospirosis is ubiquitous (widespread) throughout the world and any dog who comes into contact with wet environments is at risk of infection. Treatment of Leptospirosis is intensive and expensive, and while many dogs recover, there are those who do not or who sustain lasting organ damage. The cost of vaccination (generally about $30.00 per year for adult dogs) far outweighs the risks of not vaccinating.
  2. Leptospirosis is a public health concern as it can also cause disease in humans. By vaccinating your dog you reduce the chance that he/she will become infected with the disease-causing strains of Leptospira bacteria, and thus reduce the chance that this bacteria would be perpetuated in the environment for other animals and humans to become infected with. You are helping to halt the line of transmission.

For more information about Leptospirosis in pets, refer to the Leptospirosis Brochure provided by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association).

For more information about Leptospirosis in humans, refer to the Leptospirosis Information Site provided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).