Get Healthy!

  • Posted May 17, 2024

Leptospirosis: What Every Dog Owner Should Know

Mice, rats and other wildlife can pick up bacteria called leptospira from water or soil and excrete it in urine.

If your dog contacts any soil or water contaminated by the germ (especially if they have an open wound) they can easily develop a potentially deadly disease called leptospirosis.

“Every dog that has access to the outdoors is at risk of getting leptospirosis,” stressed Dr. Emmanuelle Butty, a veterinarian and assistant clinical professor of veterinary medicine at Tufts University in Boston.

“It's heartbreaking when we see these cases,” Butty added, because there's been an effective canine vaccine against leptospirosis for the past two decades.

Humans can also become infected, although cats are thought to be resistant to leptospirosis.

In dogs, the symptoms of leptospirosis include lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite. Signs of thirst may appear, and your dog's eyes could turn yellow with jaundice.

Symptoms do vary, however, so be sure to get your dog checked out by a vet if you have any concerns.

In most cases, antibiotics clear up a case of canine leptospirosis, Butty said.

However, the disease can progress to harm the kidneys, triggering kidney failure that may require dialysis.

“If we buy time [with dialysis],” Butty said, “we have a chance that the body will recover.”

In a study she conducted, 16 of 22 dogs whose leptospirosis progressed to kidney failure survived.

“All of them would have died without dialysis because their kidneys were completely shut down,” she said, “but almost 75% of them were able to get out of the hospital. Even if things look really bad, there is a decent chance we will be able to save this animal.”

These treatments are costly, however, so Butty suggested pet insurance to cover such emergencies. "It can definitely save a life,” she said.

Recovering from a severe case of leptospirosis still leaves dogs with long-term kidney issues.

“It's sad when dogs have chronic kidney disease at one or two years old,” Butty said. “Their lifespan is going to be reduced significantly.”

Of course the best way to help your pooch avoid leptospirosis is through vaccination.

“We have a good way to prevent the disease and to prevent the most severe cases of the disease, and that is the vaccine,” Butty said. It's a two-shot regimen spaced a month apart, and can be given to dogs as young as 12 weeks of age.

Yearly boosters are recommended after that, Butty said, and sticking to a schedule is crucial. 

“If the booster is not on time, they are not considered vaccinated anymore and have to be restarted with the first two doses,” Butty explained. “Owners absolutely have to be on top of this and get an appointment with the vet before the due date.”

The vaccine is very safe: Dogs might get mildly under the weather for a couple days after their shots, but most bounce back quickly and serious reactions are rare.

More information

The American Veterinary Medical Association has more on leptospirosis.

SOURCE: Tufts University, news release, May 15, 2024

Health News is provided as a service to Dallas Express Pharmacy site users by HealthDay. Dallas Express Pharmacy nor its employees, agents, or contractors, review, control, or take responsibility for the content of these articles. Please seek medical advice directly from your pharmacist or physician.
Copyright © 2024 HealthDay All Rights Reserved.