Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can impact dogs, livestock, wild animals, and people. Today, our Las Vegas veterinarians explain what leptospirosis is, what the symptoms are, and how you can protect your dog. 

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a disease that affects dogs, livestock, wild animals, and people. The disease is caused by a bacteria called Leptospira, which can be found worldwide in soil and water that’s been contaminated with infected urine.

While this bacteria can occur anywhere, it is more common in warm climates with high annual rainfall. Studies indicate the disease has gradually spread to the Western United States, including Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to people. People can catch leptospirosis from contaminated sources of water, wild animals,  livestock, and their pets. Most outbreaks of leptospirosis in humans are due to exposure to contaminated water.

How can my dog contract leptospirosis?

Dogs are at risk of developing leptospirosis, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban, or rural area. Common infection sources include:

  • Exposure to or drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or puddles
  • Exposure to wild animals or farm animal species that may pass infected urine, even in your own backyard
  • Contact with rodents, such as squirrels or rats, or other dogs (such as in dog parks, facilities where multiple dogs are housed, or urban areas)

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs?

Common leptospirosis symptoms in dogs include:

  • Decreased appetite or not eating
  • Shivering or fever
  • Increased drinking and/or urination
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Jaundice
  • Conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • Muscle pain, stiffness or reluctance to move
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing or coughing)

Prevention & Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs

If your dog does have leptospirosis it is important they get antibiotic treatment as soon as possible. With prompt treatment, your dog has an 80% survival rate but may have permanent liver or kidney function. 

Similar to many other diseases, it’s always better to prevent leptospirosis through vaccination than to treat it. If your pet has never had a vaccine for this disease, ask your vet when and if your dog should have one based on your pet’s risk. 

Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, owners of dogs that may have had the disease should avoid touching their dog’s urine with bare skin and wash hands after petting the dog. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning any areas your dog may have soiled, and disinfect any areas where your pup has urinated. You can use a diluted bleach solution or household disinfectant to kill the organism.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet. 

Do you suspect your dog might be suffering from leptospirosis? Prompt treatment is key. Contact our Las Vegas vets today.