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November 8, 2011 at 12:57 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

Does My Dog Have Leptospirosis?

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Our poor mini dachshund, Izzy contracted Leptospirosis so I thought I would share a little bit about the condition, it's symptoms, and how to prevent YOUR dog from catching it.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a sneaky but dangerous bacterium virus strain that is not commonly discussed in the pet world. When contracted, it can affect the body with symptoms that are quite similar to a flu, which is unfortunate because if not detected early Leptospirosis can seriously damage the liver and kidneys.

How Could My Dog Catch Leptospirosis (Lepto)?

Infected wild or domesticated animals including squirrels, skunks, raccoons, mice and rats can be carriers of this virus. Because it is a virus of the affected animal's kidneys, it is typically spread through urine or fecal matter. The virus may be spread by:

  • Sniffing or licking an area that has infected urine in it.
  • Swimming in or drinking contaminated water.
  • Being bitten by an infected animal.
  • Eating infected animals or their waste.

Woods, swampy and tropical areas are the areas most likely to harbor this virus. However, don't rule out your backyard or a dog park.

What are the Symptoms of Leptospirosis?

  • Fever (Cold and shivering)
  • Depression (Not being themselves)
  • Joint Pain (Stiff)
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Drinking Excessively or Disinterest in Drinking
  • Eye Inflammation
  • Jaundice (Yellow Tint to Skin)

Unvaccinated dogs can suffer traumatically with life-threatening damage to their liver and kidney. Sometimes resulting in death.

In our own case, Izzy was vomiting, having diarrhea, and showing disinterest in everything she normally LOVES to do - even fetching!

I brought Izzy into my vet and they did a thorough examination. Our vet decided to run a blood test to diagnosis or rule out Lepto. Early detection can be life saving! If you suspect your dog might have contracted this disease, push for your vet to take a blood sample to test for Lepto.

How is Leptospirosis Treated?

Depending on the severity of your dog's illness, the most common treatment is a prescribed antibiotic that kills the strain provided by your vet. Your pet will usually be on this for an extended period of time, but luckily, the majority of dogs make a full recovery, as our Izzy did :)

Unfortunately, because this virus can be spread through your infected dog's urine, all household dogs will also need to be treated with an antibiotic. This can be costly, but was well worth it to ensure both of our dogs AND our family remained healthy and safe.


Unfortunately, yes we humans can get it too, so it is important to take precautions when cleaning up after your dog.

Steps to Take:

  • Wear Gloves when cleaning an area with urine and picking up fecal matter.
  • Allow your dog to urinate on concrete which can be easier to hose away and disinfect
  • Wash your hands after each clean up

Although these tips can help and lower your risk in getting this virus, they do not eliminate it entirely. If you feel ill, visit your doctor immediately, especially if your dog has been diagnosis with Lepto.

How Can I Prevent Leptospirosis?

Some lucky dogs carry an antibody against Lepto, which usually means the animal has been previously exposed without showing any symptoms. Cats are believed to have immunity to this virus due to longtime exposure to rodents.

However, your pet can get Lepto again if exposed to the virus, so it is imperative to have your dog vaccinated if your dog is exposed to common areas that can be carriers of this disease.

So how can you prevent an episode?

  • Limit access and do not allow your dog to drink from puddles.
  • Do NOT feed wild life in your backyard.
  • Most Important: Give your dogs a yearly vaccination (discuss with your vet to make sure this is the best option for your dog)

Izzy is healthy as ever and now, to ensure this never happens again, both her and Romeo receive a yearly vaccination against Lepto now.


Dog Fancy Magazine, 2011

Labbies - Lepto

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  • Great information, thanks for sharing this Victoria. I have a question: can cats contract Leptospirosis? My parents cat recently was bitten by another cat. She had a wound that was infected for a couple days. After a few baths and some hydrogen peroxide, the wound has healed. But is there still a risk she could contract some sort of disease?

  • Hi Bri, the good news is cats have an immunity to Lepto due to their long-term interaction with rodents....your kitty should be fine.

  • As of Dec 2011, to my knowledge, the Lepto vaccine is for only 4 strains of Lepto and there are 8 strains that can cause disease. (There are more than 200 strains of Lepto, but no all cause disease). What are the chances of a dog contracting Lepto even if it gets the vaccination? How prevalent is Lepto in the Shenandoah Valley?
    Thank you for any statistics you are able to provide.

  • Hi Sophia: Unfortunately, the vaccine is NOT guaranteed that it will even work on every dog and the immunity is short lasting, sometimes less then a year. I would check with your local animal shelter or vet to find out about how prevalent Lepto is in your community. I hope this helps :)

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