Veterinarian For Leptospirosis In Dogs

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, and virtually all mammals are susceptible to leptospirosis, meaning that it can be passed from dogs to humans. In cats, however, leptospirosis infection is rare and mild, although research is being done on its potential role in feline renal disease.

How is Leptospirosis Spread?

Leptospirosis is contracted through contact with urine from infected animals. This includes rivers, puddles, lakes, and streams which may harbor the bacteria. In cities, rat populations urinate on sidewalks, in parks, and on roads – after raining, puddles that accumulate become potential reservoirs for the bacteria. Infection occurs when a mucous membrane or wound comes into contact with the urine-contaminated substrate, such as drinking water from an infected puddle. Leptospirosis can be passed from mother to puppy as well. In infected dogs, leptospira that settle in the urinary tract and kidneys shed in the urine, causing urine from infected animals to be infectious.

What Happens When Leptospira Enter the Body?

After the leptospira enters the body, there is an incubation period of 4-20 days in which the animal shows no signs of infection. After this incubation period, leptospira begin to circulate in the blood, spreading and replicating in the liver, kidneys, lungs, urinary tract, and central nervous system. During this period of infection, clinical signs of infection begin, and antibodies can be detected in the animal. In some animals, the immune system can eventually clear the infection, but in most animals, supportive care and treatment is required in order to prevent potentially fatal organ damage.

What are the Symptoms of Infection?

Patients infected with leptospirosis often present with clinical signs of kidney damage including lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, abdominal pain, increase in thirst, increase in urination, decrease in urination, or failure to produce urine. Often acute leptospirosis results in kidney and/or liver damage. Other problems that leptospirosis may cause include pancreatitis, anemia, and muscle pain.

How is Leptospirosis Diagnosed and Treated?

Bloodwork and Urinalysis are often done as baseline diagnostics in cases where leptospirosis may be suspected. Diagnosis is usually done with an ELISA antibody test that detects the presence of leptospirosis antibodies in the patient. Once diagnosed, a combination of antibiotic administration and supportive care is used to treat an infected patient.

Can Leptospirosis Be Prevented?

Yes! There is a highly effective canine vaccine that protects against leptospirosis in dogs. Upon initial vaccination, a booster must be given 2-4 weeks from the initial vaccination date. After this first set of vaccinations, a booster vaccine must be given annually to maintain efficacy.

If you suspect your dog may have leptospirosis, or if you would like to set up an appointment to have your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis, please contact our Veterinary Hospital. It is our objective to help your dog live their happiest, healthiest life.


Carolyn Schew

Veterinary Technician  
World of Animals at Rittenhouse