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Featured Quote:

Even small dogs that are mostly indoor, when they go outside and they just step in the urine that rats have dropped around and lick their paws, or if it goes in through a cut on their foot or something, they can get exposed to leptospirosis that way.

Video Transcript:

Today we're gonna talk about leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that dogs can pick up from being exposed to water that is infected with the leptospirokete, which is a bacterium. It's transmitted by the urine of wild animals. Included in the wild animals are rats. Everybody that lives in southern California has a population of rats either in their yard or very nearby. I would say most of us do unless you live in a high-rise. The problem is that these rats will urinate just about anywhere. Even small dogs that are mostly indoor, when they go outside and they just step in the urine that rats have dropped around and lick their paws, or if it goes in through a cut on their foot or something, they can get exposed to leptospirosis that way.

Also we know that just for dogs that are out hiking in streams and areas where wildlife are urinating, and are near the water, that's the other way that dogs can be exposed. What happens is you get exposed to this and within about three to five days the dogs are gonna be showing flu-like symptoms. They could be achy, sore, have fever, they can even show lamenesses. Just in general, they're not feeling well. Leptospirosis can cause kidney and liver failure pretty quickly. One of the scariest things about is that it's a zoonotic disease, so that humans can actually contract it from their pets, if you're exposed to the urine from your dog. Sounds kinda odd, but it actually can happen just by you cleaning up urine. If your dog starts to have kidney failure it'll urinate excessive amounts, and then that's when owners quite often will wind up being exposed to it.

We really do recommend that those dogs that are in high exposure situations be vaccinated for leptospirosis. It's a series of two vaccines, the first year at one, annual after that. There have unfortunate been an increase in incidents in our area. A lot of it we think is just due to the increases moisture from all the rain we've had. It seems like every time that happens, there is an increase is the number of cases of leptospirosis. It'd be a good thing to talk to one of our veterinarians about next time you're in.

What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect a dog's blood, liver or kidneys. It is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria.
How do dogs acquire the infection?
The bacteria are carried mainly by rats and other rodents, but infected dogs can also act as a source of the infection. Ingestion of infected urine is the most common means of transmission, but some forms of the bacteria can also penetrate damaged or very thin skin. The incubation period (from infection to onset of clinical signs) is usually four to 12 days.
What are the signs of leptospirosis?
Many infections go undetected, while other cases can be life-threatening.
There are three main forms of the disease: hemorrhagic (relating to the blood), icteric (relating to the liver) and renal (relating to the kidney).
In the hemorrhagic disease, dogs will experience early high fever with lethargy and loss of appetite. Multiple small hemorrhages occur in the mouth and on the whites of the eyes. Bloody diarrhea and vomiting may occur. This form is often fatal.
The icterus form begins much like the hemorrhagic form and many of the signs are the same. It differs in the presence of a yellow color (jaundice) in the mouth and whites of the eyes. In severe cases in dogs with white hair, the skin will turn yellow.
The renal form causes kidney failure. These dogs are very lethargic, anorectic and may experience vomiting. The mouth may have a very offensive odor and ulcers often develop on the tongue. This form may be fatal, and even recovered dogs often have chronic kidney disease.
How common is leptospirosis?
This disease is not common in North America because of widespread use of vaccines to prevent it. However, stray or unvaccinated dogs can be infected.
What is the treatment?
Antibiotics are reasonably effective if they are begun promptly. However, these dogs are so sick that hospitalization and intensive nursing care, including intravenous fluids, are necessary.
How can leptospirosis be prevented?
The vaccine for leptospirosis is generally part of a routine vaccination program. Annual boosters are needed to maintain proper immunity.
Can the vaccine cause reactions?
Of all canine vaccinations, leptospirosis is the most likely to cause a reaction. This usually results in lethargy for several days and possibly loss of appetite. However, these dogs do recover and are then protected against the disease.
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