Leptospirosis

Swimming Dog

Leptospirosis is a serious disease for dogs. This bacterial disease can be found in most animals including livestock (cattle, sheep and pigs) and wildlife (raccoons, deer, opossums, rats and other rodents). This bacterium is passed through the urine and into water sources where the bacteria can reproduce and remain infective for a long time. Because of the widespread nature of this bacterium, nearly any dog can be potentially exposed, whether walking in damp areas, around lakes, streams; drinking from those same sources; and, swimming or running in the woods and fields while hunting.

This bacterium can be a potential problem in our area due to the recreational sports related to water, as well as, flooding that can occur in the spring and summer. When your dog drinks the infected water the bacteria can enter the blood stream through minor cuts and abrasions in the mouth. Additionally, this bacterium may invade through any mucous membrane (eyes, mouth and nose). Your dog could also become infected through socializing with other dogs at the dog park. The risk of exposure increases as the days become warmer and during rainy periods.

Leptospirosis Bacteria

Flu-like symptoms (fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression and lethargy) are common with this disease. If untreated, this disease can progress to kidney or liver disease culminating in death. Recently, Leptospirosis has been identified in Cottage Grove, St Louis Park and St Paul. Many of these dogs were house dogs living typical suburban and urban lives.

Treatment includes supportive care and antibiotics. The best treatment is actually prevention. A vaccine is available for your dog. Initially, two doses are given about 3-4 weeks apart. From that time on, annual vaccination can prevent this disease for most dogs. These vaccines are safe and affordable.

Interestingly enough cats seem to have some natural resistance. Additionally, cats are predominantly indoor in our area and have very limited potential for exposure.

People can get Leptospirosis. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that there are more than 200 human cases each year. While the disease is rarely fatal in people, it can cause significant disease in our kidneys and liver. We can avoid exposure by wearing protective clothing and practicing good sanitation habits (washing hands).

Be sure to discuss your dog’s lifestyle and the potential prevention of this disease in your best friend.

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