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By Dr. Jess Trimble
You may have heard about something called leptospirosis (or “lepto” for short) at some point. Leptospirosis in the Bay Area became a top-of-mind concern after a number of social media posts and articles hit the local news last year. Given this year’s wet and cold weather conditions, lepto is already striking again and is likely to affect many more pets across the region, so we want you to be proactive and know how to keep your pet protected.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria. A wide range of animals are susceptible to this bacteria, not just dogs! It is , which means that humans can also acquire a leptospirosis infection from animals– including your own dog. However, even though it’s possible, you’re much more likely to get it from contact with infected water, not an animal.
Leptospirosis is passed through infected standing water, or through the urine of an infected animal. Once water or soil has been contaminated with leptospirosis-infected urine, the area can remain infectious for up to six months, especially in wet conditions. Dogs tend to pick up leptospirosis by ingesting contaminated water or soil, often in parks, or through skin contact (sometimes even in yards with sprinkler systems!). When it’s been raining for a long time and pools of water accumulate, those pools become a breeding ground for lepto bacteria. The more accumulated water there is, the more places leptospira bacteria can grow, which is why vets tend to associate rainy seasons with higher probability of contagion.
Like many other diseases and conditions, the signs of leptospirosis can vary from pet to pet, but here are the general things to watch out for:
Reluctance to move
Loss of appetite
This list comprises primarily the short-term signs and symptoms of leptospirosis; the bacteria can cause other more harmful effects long term. The disease can cause kidney, gastrointestinal, and liver problems. It’s approximated that 1 in 5 infected dogs die of complications from the disease. If you believe that your dog is exhibiting any of these signs of leptospirosis, please contact your veterinarian ASAP to get him / her treated.
Currently, most veterinarians treat leptospirosis with antibiotics and symptomatic support. If your pet has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, you don’t have to worry a ton about transmission from your pet to family members, but please follow the precautions below to stay safe:
Give the full and complete course of antibiotics to your pet
Avoid contact with your dog’s urine
Wash hands every time you handle your pet
The best way to prevent leptospirosis is to make sure that your pet’s lepto vaccination is current. If you have a puppy, he / should should get a set of two boosters – the first at 12 weeks and the second one at 16 weeks of age. The vaccine is good for one year. Here at Fuzzy we include the vaccine as part of the membership at no additional cost. Also, keep a close eye on your pups when you’re out on walks to keep them from drinking from puddles and ponds on walks.
American Veterinary Medical Association – Leptospirosis
Center for Disease Control – Leptospirosis Signs and Symptoms in Pets