Lepto? What is it, and who needs it?

lepto dog in water
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira Bacteria. These bacteria can be found world wide in soil and water. Lepto is a zoonotic disease, which means it van be spread from animals to people. In the U.S. most cases are a result from recreational activities involving water. Infection from an infected pet is much less common, but possible.

Who is affected by Lepto?

Dogs are most commonly affected. Lepto in cats is very rare and appears to be mild although little is known about the disease in this species. Some very common risk factors include exposure to, or drinking from rivers lakes or streams; exposure to wild or farm animal species and contact with rodents or other dogs.

Dogs can become infected if they have a wound, and it comes into contact with infected urine, or contaminated soil, water, food or bedding. In rare cases it can be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies.

What are the symptoms of Lepto?

Symptoms of Lepto in dogs vary. Some infected dogs don’t show any signs of illness. Symptoms may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice, or painful inflammation within the eyes.

This disease can cause kidney failure and/or liver failure. Dogs can also develop sever lung disease and have difficulty breathing. It can also cause bleeding disorders which can lead to blood tinged vomit , urine, stool, or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots on gums and other mucous membranes or on light colored skin.

What is the treatment for Lepto?

Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances of recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent liver and kidney damage. Vaccines are available to help protect your dog for at least 12 months. Annual vaccinations are recommended for at-risk dogs. They do require a booster 3-4 weeks after initial vaccination has been given.

Who should recieve the Lepto vaccination?

Dogs that should receive the Lepto vaccination are any dog that comes in contact with water (paddle boarding, hunting dogs, hiking dogs, boating dogs).

Any dogs that are in close contact with rats or other wildlife vector species (20% of raccoons in Colorado tested POSITIVE for lepto).

Any dogs that have a water source in the backyard or apartment complex.

Dogs who frequent the Midwest, East Coast, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Montana, Idaho, etc. where lepto is EXTREMELY PREVALENT.

If you have any questions or concerns about Leptospirosis and if your dog could be at risk contact the UPVH team. 385-414-2188 or unionparkvethospital@gmail.com

We hope you are having an amazing start to winter, and hope you stay warm and safe throughout the season!


Jayson Nielsen, Veterinary Technician


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