Vet Blog

The Dangers of Leptospirosis in Dogs

January 29, 2024

Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by Leptospira. The bacteria are found in soil and water, especially during rainy months, and can occur throughout the world. Exposure happens through drinking contaminated water, or coming in contact with infected soil and wildlife. Contact with the urine of carriers makes dogs especially susceptible to Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis can be passed from mother to puppies via the placenta during gestation.

A Local Leptospirosis Story

Tootsie, a 3-year old Chocolate Lab, loved to play outside and swim in the creek near her owners’ house. Mark and Linda would watch Tootsie chase squirrels, and joined her in games of fetch. One day, Linda noticed that Tootsie wasn’t acting like herself. She was urinating more often and seemed thirstier than usual. She wasn’t eating well, and even vomited a couple of times. Tootsie seemed lethargic and her eyes appeared inflamed and uncomfortable.

Linda knew that she needed to bring Tootsie to a veterinarian and get some answers, but they just moved to Murphy, on the outskirts of Richardson, and Linda didn’t know who to call. She searched the Internet for the best Richardson veterinarians and found Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital. The staff and veterinarians were compassionate and understood how concerned Linda and Mark were about Tootsie. They suspected Leptospirosis and, after quickly getting blood work confirming the diagnosis, began immediate treatment.

Suspect Leptospirosis? Call (972) 690-6900 to make an appointment.

Dogs are more commonly affected by Leptospirosis. It is possible, but extremely rare in cats. The bacteria can be spread from animals to people. If your pet is diagnosed with the infection, it is important to take special precautions with your dog, included face masks, gloves, frequent handwashing, and both the avoidance and disinfection of anything soiled by urine. It is crucial to be especially diligent during the first 24 hours of starting treatment.

The symptoms of Leptospirosis are:

  • Fever and shivering
  • Muscle tenderness, weakness and stiffness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Thirst
  • Frequent Urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Inflammation in eyes
  • Jaundice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • In some situations, dogs may be asymptomatic

Leptospirosis Is Treatable If Found Early

Veterinarians diagnose the bacterial disease by looking at a dog’s vaccination status, likelihood of exposure, symptoms, examination, and blood and urine testing. Often, if Leptospirosis is suspected, treatment will begin before the test results are back in order to get a jump start, as the earlier treatment commences, the better the chances of survival. At Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital, our on-site lab makes getting lab results even faster, and a diagnosis can be confirmed that much more quickly.

Leptospirosis is treatable, especially when caught early and aggressively. Although there is still a chance of some kidney or liver damage, dogs will generally recover from milder cases. Antibiotics are administered to treat the bacterial infection, and most dogs respond well to the treatment. The initial antibiotics attack the infection. Next, a second phase of antibiotics clear any lingering infection to prevent the dog becoming a carrier of the bacteria and spreading it to other animals. If kidney and/or liver damage have already started, the dog may require additional specialized treatment including hospitalization and IV fluids.

Vaccinations Can Prevent Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis can be prevented with annual vaccinations. These vaccines are recommended for at risk dogs. You can also reduce your dog’s exposure to the bacteria by avoiding stagnant water and wildlife.

The knowledgeable veterinarians and staff at Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital were able to make a swift diagnosis and Tootsie made a full recovery. Mark and Linda were incredibly grateful for finding the best Richardson veterinarians. They continued to take Tootsie to Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital for her preventative care visits and boarding. Due to the care Tootsie received, she is back to being the playful, happy pet she always was.  Also, Tootsie now gets vaccinated for Leptospirosis every year at her annual exam.

Make an Appointment at Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital

If your dog is showing symptoms of Leptospirosis, it is vital that you see a qualified veterinarian right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for your pet’s survival and health. Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital will guide you and your dog through diagnosis, treatment and prevention, answering all of your questions and concerns. To make an appointment, call (972) 690-6900 to make an appointment. If it is after hours and you need to see a veterinarian right away, visit our website for a list of emergency care facilities.

Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital serves the northeast Dallas suburban area. We provide the community with some of the best veterinarians in Richardson, Garland, Plano, Murphy, Wylie and Mesquite.

This information is not a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding an animal’s medical condition, always seek the advice of your veterinarian.