Leptospirosis and Your Pet

Leptospirosis and Your Pet

Old sad dogOver the past decade, there has been quite a bit of media coverage dedicated to the increasing prevalence of zoonotic diseases; that is, those illnesses transferred between animals (domesticated and wild) and humans. While these diseases have always existed, and certainly many of us are familiar with rabies and why vaccination is so critical in protecting pets and people, some lesser known zoonotic diseases are just as perilous to community health.

Leptospirosis is a bacteria often found in contaminated fresh water sources. Leptospirosis is borne of and transmitted by wildlife, such as skunks and raccoons, and is transferred to fresh water through their urine. While some of us might question the likelihood of our pet contracting Leptospirosis, there is a strong correlation of infection through the ingestion of or exposure to contaminated water and soil. And, we all know how much our dogs, especially, love to lap up lake or stream water or snarffel in the dirt.

Although the disease has been relatively rare in the United States, reports of infected animals have been on the rise over the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those living in tropical or temperate climates, such as what we experience in the Gulf and southern coastal states, are at greater risk of developing the disease.

How Leptospirosis Spread

Leptospirosis is spread through contact with the urine of infected animals, which could be found in fresh water sources or soil. The bacteria can reside in these places for years, so it is very important to take precautions when spending time around lakes, creeks, or areas rife with wildlife.

In most cases, the disease is contracted by our pets when participating in water activities, such as swimming and boating, in contaminated water sources. The bacteria infects an animal by entering the body through cuts or sores on the skin, mucous membranes, such as eyes, nose, and mouth, and through drinking infected water.

Signs of Leptospirosis

  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Frequent urination
  • Weakness
  • Appetite loss
  • Because of the severity of the disease and risk to your family, it is imperative to treat these symptoms immediately. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better your pet’s chances are for recovery and reducing the potential for liver and kidney damage.

    Protecting Your Pet and, Therefore, Your Family

    The most effective way to reduce your pet’s risk of developing Leptospirosis is to vaccinate him or her regularly, especially when planning trips on or near lakes or in natural areas with high-density raccoon, skunk, squirrel, and other small mammal populations.

    In addition, observe your dog at all times around lakes, streams, and ponds to discourage him or her from ingesting any stagnant water.

    If your pet has not been vaccinated against Leptospirosis, we recommend you schedule an appointment to discuss his or her vaccination schedule and potential risk factors. Our comprehensive wellness care examinations include covering all vaccinations, boosters, and preventatives needed to keep your pet safe and healthy year-round.



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