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Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 19, 2016
Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment

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Canine leptospirosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by spirochaete bacteria of the Leptospira genus.

It mainly affects the dog's liver and kidneys. Leptospirosis and is also a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans and other mammals. Many wild animals are common carriers of Leptospira bacteria.

Find out in this AnimalWised article what is canine leptospirosis, what are the symptoms, how is it diagnosed and what treatment should be followed.

Causes and risk factors of canine leptospirosis

The causative agents of leptospirosis are bacteria from the Leptospira genus. The most common strains in dogs are L. canicola and L. icterohaemorrhagiae, but there are others that can also infect your best friend.

Contagion usually takes place through the urine of infected animals, but it can also happen through other bodily fluids. Dogs usually get infected when they drink contaminated water or consume herbs or soil contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Dogs that regularly go to the countryside can also become infected when they walk along ponds or swim in contaminated water.

Whilst this disease is found worldwide, it is much more common in areas with tropical climates because these bacteria thrive in warm, humid environments. They can survive for long periods in bodies of water and other favorable environments. Cold and dry climates, on the other hand, are not favorable for the development of Leptospira, which is why the disease is much less common there.

Dogs that live in areas with lots of wildlife - such as raccoons or squirrels - are more likely to become infected with leptospirosis. Similarly, those who live in very populated cities with large populations of rats and mice are also more likely to become infected.

Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment - Causes and risk factors of canine leptospirosis

Symptoms of canine leptospirosis

Most dogs that carry these bacteria display no symptoms and live peacefully, without developing the disease. However, those that develop the disease have one or more of the following clinical symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Nose bleed
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Coughing
  • Low physical activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Back pain
  • Urinating large amounts
  • Urinating frequently
  • Dehydration
  • Very reddened mucous membranes
  • Blood in the urine

In rare cases, dogs quickly die shortly after displaying symptoms, or even without having presented them in the first place.

Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment - Symptoms of canine leptospirosis

How is canine leptospirosis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of infection is often difficult, since most infected dogs display no symptoms. Typically, it is based on the dog's history, physical examination and blood and urine analysis.

To detect leptospirosis, an analysis called a microscopic agglutination test is carried out. This analysis allows for the detection of antibodies that work against the Leptospiragenus bacteria in the dog's blood.

Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment - How is canine leptospirosis diagnosed?

Treatment of canine leptospirosis

The treatment consists of administering antibiotics, usually orally-administered penicillin, with the aim of killing the bacteria. The dose and duration of treatment must be specified by the vet. In many cases it is necessary to hospitalize the dog for a few days in order to administer IV fluids and help regulate the electrolyte levels in the body.

Those dogs which have suffered kidney or liver damage as a result of the disease will need additional treatment to stop the damage and recuperate the functions of these organs as much as possible.

The owners of dogs affected by this disease have to avoid coming in contact with their pet's bodily fluids until treatment has been successfully completed, since leptospirosis can be easily transmitted to humans.

Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment - Treatment of canine leptospirosis

Prevention of canine leptospirosis

The best way to prevent leptospirosis consists in preventing dogs from wandering into risk areas, such as ponds, irrigated pastures and muddy areas. Unfortunately, in some places this is easier said than done.

There are also preventive vaccines which work against canine leptospirosis. However, their administration largely depends on where the dog lives and the opinion of your vet, as some vets consider these vaccines to be unessential and avoid giving them to dogs in low risk areas. In any case, vaccination against canine leptospirosis is routine in many countries. Here you can learn more about core and noncore vaccines for dogs.

Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment - Prevention of canine leptospirosis

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Canine Leptospirosis - Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Bacterial diseases category.

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