Leptospirosis is a disease caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called leptospira. It occurs worldwide and can affect humans as well as many wild and domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The disease can be serious for both humans and animals. In people, the symptoms are often flu-like, but sometimes leptospirosis can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lungs and heart. For more information on leptospirosis in humans, you can look at the following site from the Centers for Disease Control.
Your pet can get leptospirosis too, and although this does not happen often, the disease has been diagnosed more frequently in the past few years. The information given here will show you how to protect yourself and your pets from getting leptospirosis and what to do if your pet does become infected.
How do People and Animals get Leptospirosis?
The leptospira bacteria are spread through the urine of infected animals. The bacteria can get into water or soil where they survive for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with contaminated urine, water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through a cut in the skin or through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment for up to several years.
Common leptospira carriers include raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, deer and rats. Livestock can also carry the organism. Because of increased building and development into areas that were previously rural, pets may be exposed to more wildlife that are infected with leptospirosis. Dogs also may pass the disease to each other, but this happens very rarely.
What Pet Animals get Leptospirosis?
All animals can potentially become infected with leptospirosis, although cases in cats are rare.
What are the Signs of Leptospirosis in Pets?
The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary and are nonspecific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms. Common clinical signs reported in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, stiffness, severe muscle pain, or inability to have puppies. Generally younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals.
What Should I do if I Think my Pet has Leptospirosis?
Contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can perform tests to detect the presence of leptospiral antibodies or organisms in your pet.
Is there a Treatment for Leptospirosis in Pet Animals?
Yes, leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics. If an animal is treated early, it may recover more rapidly and any organ damage may be less severe. Other treatment methods, such as fluid therapy may be required. The time between exposure to the bacteria and development of disease is usually 5 to 14 days, but can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days or more.
What Should I do if I have been Told my Pet has Leptospirosis?
If your pet has been confirmed by your veterinarian as having leptospirosis, the appropriate action to take will depend on the nature of contact with your pet. Normal daily activities with your pet will not put you at high risk for leptospirosis infection. Types of contacts that are considered to be high risk include direct or indirect contact with urine, blood, and tissues of your pet during its infection. Assisting in the delivery of newborns from an infected animal is also considered a high-risk activity for transmission of leptospirosis.
If you have had these types of high-risk contacts with your pet during the time of its infection, inform your physician. If common symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches, occur within 3 weeks after a high-risk exposure, see your physician. Tests can be performed to see if you have this disease.
How can I Protect Myself and Other People when my Pet has Leptospirosis?
The risk of getting leptospirosis from a dog in standard instances is suspected to be low. The primary mode of transmission of leptospirosis from pets to humans is through direct or indirect contact with contaminated animal tissues, organs, or urine. Always contact your veterinarian and your physician if you have concerns about a possible exposure to an infected animal.
How can I prevent leptospirosis in my pet?