What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease process caused by mobile bacteria deposited into the environment through infected animal’s urine. This bacteria is transmitted through direct or indirect contact with a contaminated water source or infected animal. The bacteria enters an uninfected individual through mucous membranes and damaged skin.

What are the symptoms of Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a serious illness which most commonly causes acute kidney failure. Early stages of the disease process may appear as flu-like symptoms (fever, lethargy, joint pain and vomiting) and frequent urination. More severe symptoms consist of jaundice, bloody urine/stool, dehydration and kidney failure, which can be fatal. Treatment can include extensive hospitalization and supportive therapy which can be extremely costly as well.

Who is at risk?

Not only can our pets acquire this potentially fatal disease, but Leptospirosis is zoonotic. Meaning our pets and infected wildlife can also transmit this illness to humans. Leptospirosis affects humans in the same way it affects our pets, causing liver and kidney issues. If your pet drinks out of puddles, ventures into wooded areas live in a location where rats/raccoons frequent or is ever kenneled, they may be at an even higher risk of contracting the disease.

Where can Leptospirosis be found?

Once considered to be more of a concern in rural areas, development has created an influx of wildlife into urban areas as well. They can survive in warm, moist environments such as puddles, streams, ditches, stagnant water and moist soil. Wildlife such as raccoons, rats and skunks are the primary carriers of these bacteria and shed them into the environment.

Is Leptospirosis preventable?

Leptospirosis vaccinations are available for our pets and are the best way to ensure their safety and protection from this disease. Including the Leptospirosis vaccine as part of your pet’s core vaccination protocol will provide them with year-round protection and also protects us.

Written by: Deborah Lewis, VT