Leptospirosis is bacterial infection that can be life threatening for both humans and pets. It can be found throughout most of the United States with the exception of desert areas because it is most prevalent in warm, wet, and humid climates.
Why must one be concerned? It is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans. Many dogs are exposed to leptospirosis in environments contaminated by urine of wildlife such as raccoons, opossums, mice, moles, rats, skunks, squirrels, deer, and foxes.
“Leptospirosis cases are on the rise in many states, but more and more cases are seen right here in New Jersey, even in our own Hillsborough and Belle Mead area,” said Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital. “Our most recent case was a small breed dog whose owner said only goes out to urinate and defecate in their backyard.”
Leptospirosis spread through urine can live for a very long time in a moist or wet environment such as puddles in your backyard.
“Dogs are not only out in their own yards but also go to many other areas, including dog parks,” continued Dr. Martins. “These areas where many dogs urinate can concentrate and spread Leptospirosis very quietly.”
Dr. Martins cautioned that dogs become infected more easily than humans by simply stepping in or smelling a contaminated area and then licking their paws.
Most dogs that get sick with leptospirosis will develop kidney failure or liver damage. Sometimes the kidney failure is severe enough that dialysis is required. There are many possibilities, from mild signs a pet parent may not even notice to sudden death.
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, but with severe infections, significant organ damage may occur before antibiotics can clear the infection. Leptospirosis can also damage the eyes, lungs, and blood vessels, causing unusual signs that can be difficult to diagnose.
“An infected dog may not fall ill until days or weeks later,” advised Dr. Martins. “The first symptom might simply be that your dog is drinking or urinating more often than usual. Call your family veterinarian if you notice these changes in behavior for a proper diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to ensure recovery.”
You can minimize your risk factors by reducing exposure to potentially infected areas. Also, talk to your veterinarian about a vaccine that can protect your dog against four strains of leptospirosis for an entire year. There are huge benefits to vaccination against this serious disease.
Belle Mead Animal Hospital (BMAH) is located at 872 U.S. Highway 206, Hillsborough, NJ 08844. Telephone: 908-874-4447.
The BMAH team has been providing compassionate, high quality care to families and pets in Hillsborough Township and surrounding areas in New Jersey for more than 30 years. The Belle Mead Animal Hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). You can "Like" BMAH on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @BMAH121 and Google+ for more news and advice regarding pet health and wellness issues.
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