What is Leptospirosis?
Lepto is a disease which affects animals and humans which is caused by a number of different sub-types of the Leptospira bacteria. We tend to see an increase in the number of cases after periods of wet weather in the spring and fall. Dogs and humans are particularly susceptible. Cats seem to be resistant to infection.
What kind of illness does Lepto cause?
Lepto can cause a wide range of symptoms, from no symptoms at all to sudden death. Common symptoms include: loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, dehydration, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, red or cloudy eyes, and nasal discharge. Signs of kidney failure (increased drinking and urination) and/or liver failure (jaundice) are also common.
How is Lepto transmitted?
Lepto infects the kidneys and can be shed in urine for years if the infection is not treated. Therefore, contact with or ingestion of water or soil that has been contaminated with the urine of an animal carrier is the most common cause of Lepto. Rats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, and deer are among the animals that can carry Lepto. It is important to note that a dog can transmit this infection to its owners or caretakers if they come in contact with its urine when the dog is infected or if it becomes a carrier.
How can Lepto be prevented?
There is a very safe and effective vaccination against Leptospirosis. The initial series is two vaccinations given 3-4 weeks apart. After that, an annual booster must be given.
How is Lepto treated?
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. Often patients infected with Lepto are very ill and will require a period of hospitalization and intensive care. Because the symptoms of Lepto are varied and non-specific, making the diagnosis can be challenging. We often begin treating suspected cases before a definitive diagnosis is made. As with most serious infectious diseases, we would prefer to avoid possible infections by vaccination rather than treating animals that are severely ill due to what is a preventable disease.
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