Is Your Dog At Risk For Leptospirosis? Facts for Dog Owners


Leptospirosis is a serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infection that can be spread to your dog through contact with the urine of rodents like rats and squirrels.  The bacteria can live in both soil and water, and a simple drink from a rainwater puddle can be potentially hazardous to your dog.



Recent news reports in the New York/New Jersey area tell of an unusual increase in the number of canine leptospirosis cases in that part of the U.S.  The disease can also be spread to humans, as one man’s death in the Bronx has lately shown.  Experts suspect that the rise in cases is due to recent warm, wet weather, leading to more dogs being exposed to the bacteria on walks.



While the disease is rare in cats, dogs that live in rural and suburban areas, especially those near lakes, rivers, streams, and other wet areas frequented by rodents are at risk.  Common signs of a leptospirosis infection in dogs include:



  • Fever
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Changes in urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea



Left untreated, leptospirosis can cause kidney failure, possible liver failure, and also bleeding and lung disorders.  Your vet can treat your infected dog with antibiotics.  To prevent leptospirosis in dogs that live in high-risk areas, vets recommend that they get an annual vaccine.  You should also keep an eye on your dog in areas where standing water is present.


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