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Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis can lead to liver and kidney problems in dogs, if it is left untreated. This disease is caused by certain strains of the bacteria 'Leptospira'. Find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this disease, in this DogAppy write-up.
Chandramita Bora
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can affect humans and a large number of animals, including cats and dogs. This disease is somewhat rare in cats, as compared to dogs. If not treated on time, it can lead to some serious health problems, as the infection can damage the liver and the kidneys. This bacterial disease is mainly classified into three forms - hemorrhagic, icteric, and renal leptospirosis.

Hemorrhagic leptospirosis can cause bleeding and infection of the blood, while icteric leptospirosis affects the liver and causes jaundice. Renal leptospirosis can lead to kidney failure. This disease is more prevalent in dogs that are kept in unsanitary conditions and in crowded places. So, factors like housing can affect the incidence of the disease.

In the recent years, there has been an increase in the number of canine leptospirosis, especially in certain parts of the United States and Canada. This disease is also common in tropical regions. High rainfall is a favorable factor for the survival and spread of the bacteria that cause this disease. In general, dogs that are more likely to come in contact with the infected urine of carrier animals like rodents and raccoons, are more likely to get infected with the Leptospira bacteria.

Causes of Leptospirosis
There are more than two hundred strains of the Leptospira bacteria, of which only eight strains or serovars have been identified to cause this disease in pets. These strains are known as, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae, L. grippotyphosa, L. pomona, L. canicola, L. bratislava, L. bataviae, L. hardjo, L. autumnalis and L. grippotyphosa. Again, out of these eight strains, L. icterohaemorrhagiae, L. canicola, L. grippotyphosa, and L. pomona are more commonly associated with canine leptospirosis.

The bacteria get transmitted through infected body fluid, more commonly through the urine of the infected animals. Even contact with contaminated water and soil can cause the disease. Animals like rats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are the carriers of the Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria can enter the body through open wounds, or broken skin or mucous membrane, and eventually cause kidney and liver problems.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis
The disease can produce several symptoms, which are listed below:
  • Fever (103 to 105°F)
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle pain or tenderness
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst
  • Depression
  • Change in urine color (orange or red-colored urine)
  • Frequent urination
  • Jaundice
  • Uveitis
  • Conjunctivitis
If the disease is not treated promptly, the infection can spread, which can produce some additional symptoms, such as breathing difficulty, blood in vomit, and nervous system abnormalities. It can be considered one of the serious dog illnesses, especially for the puppies younger than 6 months, as they are more likely to develop the life-threatening complications.

Treatment for Leptospirosis
Canine leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. Usually, more than one type of antibiotics are used to treat the infection. Along with antibiotics, supportive therapy in the form of fluid therapy may be required. Supportive therapy is mainly required to reverse the kidney damage caused by the infection. It helps increase the blood flow to the kidneys, and restore the filtration activity and urine production. If the infection is quite severe, and if it has already damaged the kidneys considerably, then hemodialysis can be required. The prognosis depends on several factors, such as the particular strain that has infected the dog, and for how long the animal has been infected before receiving treatment.

Nowadays, vaccinations are available for certain strains of Leptospira bacteria. To prevent this condition, be sure to take appropriate care, and keep your dog away from the potential sources of infection, such as the carrier animals, animals infected with Leptospira, and contaminated water and food. Humans can also contract this disease from infected animals, especially if one comes in contact with the infected urine or vomit of the animal. Therefore, infected dogs and other pets should be handled carefully, and any area contaminated with their urine or vomit should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.