As a result of the increasing levels of Leptospirosis being reported in Ontario, and the devastating disease it can cause, we are now making Leptospirosis a CORE vaccine in our vaccine protocol for dogs and puppies at our clinic. We understand that this is not a commonly discussed topic, so here are the most frequently asked questions regarding Lepto:
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a spiral-shaped bacterial organism (called a spirochete) that lives best in warm, slow-moving water such as found after heavy rains or flooding. It also contaminates the soil after these waters clear away, where they can survive for months afterwards.
Where does it come from?
Wildlife, such as raccoons, foxes, skunks or rodents, are common carriers of the infection. They spread the disease from their urine, which in turn contaminates water in the outdoor environment.
How does my dog become infected?
Dogs become infected with the bacteria when irritated or cut skin comes into contact with infected urine or water than has been contaminated with the infected urine. As well, bite wounds, exposure to reproductive secretions, and even eating infected tissue can transmit the infection.
What are the clinical signs of Leptospirosis in dogs?
Once the bacteria enters the dog’s bloodstream, there is a progression of signs that can occur:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Abnormal bruising
- Tissue edema (spongy swelling)
The above signs usually occur 7 days or so after infection. By 2 weeks post-infection, the bacteria have made its home in the kidneys, where it causes:
- Kidney disease that may progress to the point of being unable to produce urine
Some variants of Leptospirosis can also infect the liver (hepatitis), cause lung bleeding, and it may also cause inflammation of the eyes (uveitis).
The disease can also become chronic with recurring fevers, chronic hepatitis, chronic kidney disease, uveitis, poor appetite and weight loss.
What dogs are at risk?
In Ontario, the dogs considered to be at highest risk for this disease are:
- <7 kg in body weight
- Terriers (especially Yorkshire terriers)
- Those living in an urban environment
- 4-10 years of age (although dogs less than one year of age get the most severe forms of the disease)
How is it treated?
If your dog is diagnosed with Leptospirosis, it can be treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluid therapy. The chances of recovery tend to be high, but the prognosis depends on the extent of organ damage.
Can I get leptospirosis from my dog?
Yes. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means that a disease can pass back and forth between animals and humans. As a result, if your dog is infected with Leptospirosis, you could be at risk as well. The same symptoms that occur in dogs can occur in humans. This also means that, if your dog does become infected, you will need to take extra precautions while treating them at home, especially when it comes to cleaning up your dog’s urine.
What is Chedoke Animal Hospital doing about this disease?
As a result of the increasing levels of Leptospirosis being reported in Ontario, and the devastating disease it can cause, we are now making Leptospirosis a CORE vaccine in our vaccine protocol for dogs.
This means that we will be administering Leptospirosis vaccine to EVERY dog as part of their puppy vaccines and will be giving this vaccine as part of their annual vaccine appointment to make sure they remain protected against this dreadful disease.