“If I have a dog, why should I care about a wildlife disease?”
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease your pet can contract through exposure to infected water. The water source might be lakes or rivers, or close to your home such as in a dog park or even wet soil in your yard caused by heavy rainfalls. Wildlife is the source of the illness that can lead to disease in your dog. People are also susceptible to Leptospirosis. This is a potentially fatal illness in dogs and people.
Leptospirosis as mentioned above is a bacterial disease. Raccoons are the largest carrier in our area although other animals such as skunks, opossums, and deer have been identified with the illness. The illness is transmitted through contact with water or soil that has exposed to urine from an infected animal. The disease can happen any time of the year although the more common times of year that a pet is more at risk for contracting Leptospirosis is in the spring and fall. These are times of the year when animals are more active and/or there is increased rainfall or standing water.
Pets that develop the disease frequently will have clinical signs associated with kidney disease (increased water consumption, urination, changes in appetite, vomiting) although liver and blood disease are also possible (anorexia, vision changes, fever, breathing changes, bleeding abnormalities). Humans can develop the disease with similar clinical signs from direct contact with the urine or contact with your pet’s infected urine.
Clinical signs that can be seen with Leptospirosis:
– Increased water consumption / increased urination
– anorexia or decreased appetite
– neurologic changes
– bleeding abnormalities
Fortunately for us, Leptospirosis can be frequently prevented in dogs with a vaccine. Treatment for this disease often will require hospitalization and antibiotics for an extended period of time from weeks to a month or more.
Holly Lillegaard DVM
River Hills Pet Care Hospital