Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease in dogs and other mammals that primarily affects the liver or kidneys.

Signs & Symptoms of Leptospirosis

Infected dogs are very lethargic, anorexic, and may vomit. Their breath may have a very offensive odor, and ulcers often develop on the tongue. Other signs include diarrhea, excessive drinking, and frequent urination. There is a form of the bacteria that can have hemorragic symptoms, which can include, but may not be limited to, bloody diarrhea and bloody vomiting. This form is rare and often fatal.

Causes of Leptospirosis

Dogs can contract the bacteria by ingesting infected urine or rodent-contaminated garbage. Some forms of the bacteria can penetrate damaged or thin skin. For instance, when dogs swim in contaminated water, they may become infected through their skin. The incubation period is usually 4 to 12 days.

Diagnosis of Leptospirosis

Because the clinical signs are variable and easily confused with other diseases, definite diagnosis can be difficult. However, there are no readily available rapid or definitive laboratory tests. Taking blood samples during infection and again in the recovery period, and showing an increase in antibodies to leptospira in the blood serum, is supportive of the diagnosis. A single positive test finding of the leptospira antibody, even if the blood level (titer) is high, may not mean that the dog has leptospirosis.

Treatment for Leptospirosis

Antibiotics are reasonably effective if begun early. Most affected dogs require intensive care in a veterinary hospital. An extended course of antibiotics may be prescribed, even in the recovery period, to ensure that all the leptospira organisms are cleared and the dog does not become a chronic carrier.

Prevention of Leptospirosis

The vaccine for leptospirosis is not always part of the routine vaccination program for all dogs. Your veterinarian will consider the risks and options for your dog. Annual boosters may be needed to maintain best immunity.

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