With the return of wet weather in the fall, the risk of leptospirosis increases for our dog patients. The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can affect people as well as many wild and domestic animals, including dogs. Found worldwide, it thrives in damp soils and water, and can be spread through the urine of infected animals.
How dogs become infected with Leptospirosis
Dogs become infected by coming into contact with the urine of infected animals. Many different types of environments in both rural and urban areas can be contaminated with leptospirosis, such as lakes, streams, puddles, vegetation, and mud. Even fenced yards can be contaminated by rodents, squirrels, raccoons, and deer that may carry the bacteria without becoming ill.
How to spot leptospirosis in your dog
The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary and can mimic other diseases. Common clinical signs in dogs include:
- Abdominal pain
- Refusal to eat
- Severe weakness and depression
- Severe muscle pain
Early treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids increases the chances of a dog’s recovery. Untreated animals or animal treated too late often die.
How to protect your dog from leptospirosis
Vaccinate your dog against leptospirosis yearly during your pet’s annual comprehensive exam. Although the vaccine doesn’t protect against all strains of leptospires, it does provide protection against the most common ones.
How people become infected
The bacteria that cause leptospirosis can be spread from dogs to people. People become infected with the bacteria the same way that dogs do — direct contact with an environment contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Usually this happens when people’s outdoor activities, such as swimming and wading, bring them into contact with contaminated water in lakes, ponds, and streams.
How to protect yourself from leptospirosis
- Keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control. Avoid feeding wildlife around your home and do not feed pets outdoors.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated by urine from an infected animal.
- Block off an outdoor area where your dog can urinate separate from areas used by your family to play, eat, or garden.
- Wash your hands after handling your dog or anything that might have your dog’s
urine on it.
Compiled from information provided the Washington State Department of Health