Sick as a dogLeptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection that not only affects pets, but people as well. Sadly, diagnosed cases are on the rise, making it increasingly important to know the facts about Leptospirosis and how to protect yourself and your pets.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacteria found in the urine and bodily fluids of those carrying the infection. Many animals, including humans, can contract it. Wild animals such as raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and mice are frequent carriers. Pets can become infected when contaminated water or other substances contact the skin or mucous membranes.

What Does Leptospirosis Do?

Leptospirosis most commonly affects the kidneys and liver. Infected pets may have a fever, vomiting, a painful abdomen, diarrhea, depression, and other nonspecific signs. If not treated most pets will become very sick and may even die.

Can Humans Get Leptospirosis From Their Pet?

A person who is exposed to infected fluids can contract Leptospirosis no matter what animal is the source. About one-third of human Leptospirosis infections come from exposure to a dog with the disease.

How is Leptospirosis Treated?

Fortunately the bacteria can be treated with a penicillin antibiotic. After an initial treatment, another antibiotic called doxycycline must be given as well. This stops the bacteria from being shed into the environment. During treatment some pets need supportive care such as intravenous fluid therapy.

Can Leptospirosis Be Prevented?

Most cases of Leptospirosis are preventable. Try to limit you and your pet’s exposure by being sure to prevent infestation of rodents on your property. Elimination of standing water in the environment where possible can also help, as this can harbor infected secretions and urine. Most pets should also be vaccinated against leptospirosis. While the vaccine does not provide 100% immunity, it can decrease the severity of infection. Talk with your veterinarian to determine whether your pet should be vaccinated.