Vet Buzz from Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT,
Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA
Leptospirosis is a spiral-shaped bacteria that lives in standing water, and can cause irreversible damage to your dog’s kidneys. Any dog that is out and about has the potential to be exposed to Lepto when swimming or drinking in ponds, streams, or even puddles.
Leptospirosis is transmitted by contaminated water or urine coming into contact with mucus membranes (i.e. gums), broken skin (i.e. a cut) and ingesting contaminated water. The bacteria travel through your dog’s system and eventually set up shop in the kidneys. If allowed to thrive in the kidneys, Leptospirosis will cause the kidneys to stop functioning properly. If let go long enough, a Leptospirosis infection can cause the kidneys to shut down completely, resulting in death.
If caught early, the treatment is a round of antibiotics and a follow up blood test. If a Leptospirosis infection is untreated, there is a potential for death from kidney failure. In severe cases medical therapy can include full hospitalization for several days including IV antibiotics, and fluids, and the outcome caninvolve kidneys which do not return to their full function.
To help prevent a Leptospirosis infection you can have your dog vaccinated against the disease. A further precaution is to ensure that your dog does not drink out of standing water, streams or creeks to reduce the chance of exposure to your dog. In addition, check your dog over for any cuts or abrasions on the paws (check pads, between the toes, top of the paw and bottom of the paw). If you see any wounds, even small ones, then it is a good day to stick to city streets where puddles and Leptospirosis are typically less prevalent.
If you suspect your dog may have a Leptospirosis infection, see you veterinarian ASAP.