You may or may not have heard about the recent increase in Leptospirosis cases in the Bay Area. There has been speculation that many dogs who would not normally be exposed are being affected due to the recent rise in rainfall. Please read on to learn more about this disease and how to best protect your dog.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can infect both animals and humans. The bacterium is typically found in free standing water but can be associated with alkaline soil.
How is it contracted and transmitted?
Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals. The urine of an infected animal can contaminate water sources and soil. Leptospirosis can enter the body through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) and open wounds. Maintenance hosts of the disease include raccoons, skunks, mice, squirrels, opossums, sea lions, or deer.
What are the symptoms of Leptospirosis?
Symptoms include: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, refusal to eat, weakness, muscle pain, and respiratory difficulty.
How do you treat Leptospirosis?
Antibiotics are needed to treat Leptospirosis and prevent spread to other animals or people. Supportive care is usually also needed while the dog is treated with antibiotics. This is to treat kidney failure, pain and nausea. Typically patients will need to be hospitalized on IV fluids and other supportive measures. Failure to treat or delays in treatment can result in death in severe cases.
How can you protect your dog from Leptospirosis?
Vaccination can help protect your pet from this potent and deadly zoonotic bacteria. Our doctors recommend vaccinating all dogs that are potentially exposed at any time in their life. This vaccine protects against the most common serovars of Leptospirosis. Vaccination involves a first vaccination followed by a booster in 3-4 weeks. The vaccine should then be repeated yearly. By vaccinating the majority of dogs, we can reduce the spread of Leptospirosis in our local environment.
Avoid letting your dog drink from or swim in potentially contaminated water sources which can include dog park puddles and water dishes, or a water source frequented by wildlife. Some dogs have been exposed or infected by water sources in their own backyards.
Which dogs should NOT be vaccinated for Leptospirosis?
Pregnant dogs or puppies under 6 weeks of age and dogs who have previously had an adverse reaction to the vaccine should not be vaccinated for Leptospirosis. Additionally, some illnesses such as cancer and immune-mediated diseases may be worsened by vaccination, so always follow the advice of your veterinarian. These dogs should avoid all potential sources of Leptospirosis.
In conclusion, Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can severe illness and even death in dogs and people. With the recent heavy rains in California, the risk may be higher and therefore our veterinarians are recommending all dogs, with few exceptions, be vaccinated.
Please call us at 408-736-8296 if you would like more information about Leptospirosis or would like to schedule an appointment for vaccination.
Dr. Jenny Kwon joined Sunnyvale Veterinary Clinic in 2013. Read more about Dr. Kwon here. Dr. Singh is the owner of Sunnyvale Veterinary Clinic since 2002. Read more about Dr. Singh here.