What Is Leptospirosis & Should My Dog Be Vaccinated?

Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a disease caused by Leptospira bacteria that can affect both animals and humans. In fact, it is currently the most common zoonotic disease in the world, that can be transmitted from animals to people.

How does one get the Lepto virus & how does it spread?

Leptospirosis is carried by wildlife such as rats, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels, and deer and is found in places where they may urinate, including lakes, streams, puddles, or soil in your backyard. But this doesn’t mean that only dogs that swim in lakes or lick up puddles can be exposed! Any dog that regularly goes outside is potentially at risk of contracting this disease.

While the leptospirosis vaccine is not currently a required immunization for dogs, it is highly recommended for any dog that commonly goes outside, even just to go to the bathroom in the backyard. Small breed dogs and dogs that live in urban environments may at first seem to have a lower risk, but are in fact the most frequent patients in veterinary hospitals that are diagnosed with leptospirosis! It is important to understand that even if your dog is vaccinated, there is not a 100% guarantee that they will not contract leptospirosis.

The current vaccine only protects against certain types of the multiple different variations of Leptospira bacteria that cause leptospirosis. However, having your dog vaccinated does decrease their risk of becoming sick with leptospirosis.

The signs of this disease in animals can be difficult to identify and may mimic many other disease and sometimes pets do not have any symptoms.  Below is a list of some of the clinical signs that have been reported in dogs.
These include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Inability to have puppies

Generally younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals. In general, whenever your dog is acting sick or are not behaving normally, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  Specifically, if your dog is not currently vaccinated for leptospirosis or if you think your dog might have leptospirosis, please contact your family veterinarian to learn more.  For more information visit the links below.