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How Do Pets Get Leptospirosis

What You Should Know About Leptospirosis

Although we do not see many cases of it here at New Hope Animal Hospital, we thought that in the interest of public health, we should offer an overview on ways pets can get leptospirosis so our Durham and Chapel Hill pet guardian clients can be aware of it. Leptospirosis is rare in the United States, but is highly contagious and can spread quickly through populations of the same species and others. In other words, if your dog contracts leptospirosis, he can give it to your cat as well as any farm animals you may have. You should also be aware that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Raw Facts about Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is most common in areas with warm climates and abundant yearly rainfall. The root cause of leptospirosis is liptospira, a bacterium that lives in soil and water. Dogs are more at risk for encountering leptospirosis than cats, especially rural dogs that run free to encounter farm animals, rodents, and wild animals who may be infected. Even if a dog never comes face to face with an infected animal, he can contract leptospirosis through an open sore or fresh scratch that touches a tree or bush on which an infected animal has urinated. Likewise, should he drink water from a urine contaminated stream or puddle, fight with a contaminated animal, or eat from the carcass of one. When he goes home, his urine can infect other pets of the household before it's even apparent that he has contracted leptospirosis.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Pets

Leptospirosis can manifest in different ways in different animals. Some may exhibit very mild symptoms if any at all, and recover right away. Others may develop liver and/or kidney failure, blood disorders, and eventually death. Symptoms can include all or any of the following:

  • shivering
  • jaundice
  • lethargy or a reluctance to move
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • dehydration
  • painful eye irritation
  • fluid retention in the legs, abdomen, or chest
  • blood tinged vomiting

Treatment of Leptospirosis

If an animal is treated promptly with antibiotics and tender loving supportive care, his chances of recovery are excellent. It's a shame that any dog should have to go through this serious and difficult disease at all, since it is totally preventable. There is a vaccine for leptospirosis. For that reason, our veterinarian at New Hope Animal Hospital strongly recommends that all dogs in Durham, Chapel Hill, and beyond are against leptospirosis while puppies and get a booster shot every year. If your dog was never vaccinated or more than a year has passed since his last leptospirosis shot, give us a call today to make an appointment for your dog.

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