There has been an up-tick in the number of reported cases of leptospirosis in the Seattle area lately. However, this disease is found all across the country and since it usually on the rise in the spring, I thought it might be worth talking about.
Lepto, which is carried by rats, mice, raccoons and other vermin, is a bacterial disease that can cause acute kidney shut down, liver failure, and death in dogs and cats. It is transmitted through contact with infected urine, so our pets are susceptible by exposure to contaminated water sources, food, or even bedding. Disease outbreaks often increase during periods of flooding. This disease can also be passed from animals to humans.
Early diagnosis is essential, so you need to know what to be on the lookout for.
Infection may present itself with fever, shivering, muscle tenderness and vomiting and increased thirst. Dogs may be reluctant to move due to muscle or kidney pain. While your dog may appear to have recovered from a simple, 24-hour ‘doggie flu,’ the disease may still be present. If the dog becomes ill a second time, in most cases about a week later, it may be too late.
A positive diagnosis is made through a blood test, but test results may show up as negative in the first 10 days after infection, so additional blood tests may be necessary for a positive diagnosis. If you suspect that your pet may have come in contact with possible contaminated sources, it is better to err on the side of caution.
Lepto is treated with antibiotics, which should be given right away. There are vaccines available, but there are many strains of Lepto and vaccinating against one strain does not protect against the other strains. Vaccinating your dog is also likely to cause a negative reaction itself. If you are considering vaccination, talk with your vet to learn if the strain of Lepto in your area has a vaccine to match, and is worth the risk.
Remember, it is important to provide your pets with fresh water. If you keep a water dish outside, dump it out and refill it with fresh water daily, before you let your dog take a drink. It’s a good idea in general to not let your dog drink out of any source of water that you have not provided. Keep them out of areas of standing water or anywhere that you suspect where rats, mice or raccoons may have nested or urinated.
Remember, early diagnosis and treatment are key to keeping your pet healthy.