Leptospirosis.  Have you ever heard of this disease?  Most likely you haven’t.  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect many animals but can also be passed from animals to humans.  While you may not be familiar with the disease, it is actually quite common and can occur in different locations affecting some animals more than others.


Leptospirosis happens when a group of closely related bacteria form the Leptospira. There are several different strains of this bacteria, some more severe than others and the Leptospira is a type of bacteria that is found everywhere.

The bacteria tend to like warm, humid areas and are also commonly found in stagnant bodies of water.  Wild animals and rodents, like racoons, skunks and rabbits can also carry the bacteria and release it through their urine.  Dogs can be exposed by ingesting the bacteria, swimming in contaminated water or being exposed to the bacteria through an open wound.  Adult male dogs and larger breed dogs tend to be at a higher risk than others. Perhaps due to the fact that many large breed dogs are working or hunting dogs, moving and working in rural areas where the disease may be more prevalent.


A dog’s age, immune response and vaccination status are all factors that can impact the severity of symptoms that a dog may experience.  If you suspect that your dog may have been exposed to the Leptospirosis bacteria, here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Fever-manifesting as excessive thirst
  • Joint or muscle pain manifesting as a reluctance to move
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Discharge from nose and eyes
  • Overall jaundiced look

If you see any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.



Your vet will do a urine sample to determine if the bacteria is present and then administer antibiotics, typically in two stages. The first antibiotic will treat the initial infection and the second will be given to fight the shedding of the bacteria in your pet’s urine. The sooner treatment is started, the better.

If the infection is not caught early and is allowed to progress, liver and or kidney failure can happen making the possibility of recovery much more difficult.


Vaccines are the best way to protect your dog against Leptospirosis. Although the vaccines do not protect against every strain of the bacteria, some vaccine is better than no vaccine. Additionally, implementing measures to control rodents in your yard is another measure to take, in order to prevent the spread of this bacteria and keep your pet protected.


As we said earlier, the Leptospirosis bacteria can be transmitted from animals to humans. In cases where a pet is not exhibiting symptoms, the risk of human contraction is greater. You may experience flu-like symptoms, which can progress to a more serious illness.

If your pet has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, here are some things you can do to protect yourself and other members of your family:

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and carefully.
  • Avoid contact with your pet’s urine and wear protective gloves if you need to clean up urine.
  • Disinfect all surfaces where your pet has urinated
  • Follow your vet’s instructions carefully for treating your pet.
  • Always mention any pet illnesses to your healthcare provider.


While Leptospirosis tends to be found most commonly in tropical areas of the world, it can exist anywhere. Also, if you suspect that your pet has been exposed, don’t delay in contacting your vet. The earlier he is treated, the better it is for everyone.


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