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Leptospirosis in Dogs: Symptoms and Prevention

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is caused by several strains of bacteria which are spread in the urine of animals such as rats, raccoons and skunks.  Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease meaning that it can infect both dogs and people with flu-like symptoms--lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and fever.  However, it can also cause severe or permanent damage to the liver and kidneys if not diagnosed and treated with antibiotics in its early stages.  Cats are rarely affected. 

People and pets are usually infected by accidentally or intentionally drinking from or swimming in infected pond water.  But standing water of any kind, including backyard ponds or water features, puddles in urban areas such as city parks or streets or standing water on farms can contain the bacteria and act as potential sources of infection.   You are also at risk of becoming infected if your dog has leptospirosis and you come in contact with your pet’s infected urine.

So, how can you protect your dog (and yourself) from leptospirosis?  Limit contact with wildlife and don’t allow your dog to drink from ponds or from standing or stagnant water.  Rats are carriers of the bacteria so keep rodent populations under control, but remember that dogs and cats may also accidentally ingest poisoned rat and mouse baits and this can have serious or even deadly consequences. Make sure pets cannot access rodent baits or use other methods like traps. Keep yourself safe by avoiding swimming in water that may be contaminated by wildlife and by never drinking unpurified water while hiking or camping.

There is a vaccine covering multiple strains of leptospirosis available to protect your dog.  Dogs at high risk such as those who live on farms or who go hunting or camping should be vaccinated every six to twelve months.  The leptospirosis bacterium is usually combined with distemper, parvovirus and other viruses into one vaccine though a separate “lepto-only” vaccine is also available. Patton Veterinary Hospital recommends leptospirosis as an annual core vaccine for all dogs unless your dog has had a documented allergic reaction. 

Thankfully, this illness is not diagnosed frequently but it certainly does exist in the York area.  Please keep your dog safe by limiting contact with standing water by visiting Patton Veterinary Hospital regularly to keep your dog healthy and by vaccinating your dog yearly to protect her from leptospirosis.

This blog is brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities. 



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