By Anna Garner
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be contracted by both animals and humans. There are 8 strains that can infect dogs and cats. The multiple strains produce different levels of disease depending on the animals they infect. Lepto is much more of a problem in humans, dogs, and livestock than it is in cats. Cats can be infected, but rarely shows signs of disease.
Lepto is most commonly transmitted through contact with the urine of infected animals, as this is where the bacteria are shed. Soil and Standing or slow moving water may become contaminated, and the bacteria can survive there for weeks to months. Ingestion of contaminated flesh is another common way to contract Lepto. It can also be spread through bite wounds and venereal contact, as well as placental transfer to the fetus in pregnant animals.
Symptoms of Lepto infection include fever, shivering, muscle pain, vomiting, depression, and dehydration. More severe infection will affect the liver and kidneys. When the liver is affected, icterus (a yellow tinge to the skin, mucous membranes, and eye sclera) may be present. If Lepto is suspected, it can be diagnosed through a blood test. This test can be negative within the first 10 days of infection, so multiple blood tests may be needed. It is also important to run blood work to check the liver and kidneys, since these organs are commonly affected by the disease. If an animal tests positive for Lepto, they are treated with antibiotics, fluid support, and for any corresponding kidney and liver disease.
Prevention of Lepto involves keeping animals out of contact with potential sources of infection. We are faced with a challenge, living in location that has so many beautiful parks and other wildlife-inhabited areas. Taking our animals into these environments is not the only threat. Many of us live in areas where wild animals are coming into our own backyards and neighborhoods, possibly introducing contamination and infection. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, and rodents are all potential carriers of the bacteria Leptospirosis.
The best line of defense against Lepto is to get your dog vaccinated. There is no vaccine that protects against all 8 strains of Lepto, and no vaccine is guaranteed. The Lepto vaccine that we use protects against 4 strains, cutting the risk of infection in half. It is also designed to have a low incidence of vaccine reaction. The vaccine is initially given as a series of 2 shots. Boosters are administered 3 to 4 weeks following the first vaccine, then yearly to offer the most effective protection. There is currently no vaccine available for cats due to their low infection rate.
Please feel free to call us if you have any further questions regarding Lepto. If you are interested in getting your dog vaccinated or your dog is overdue for a Lepto booster, please give us a call and we would be happy to assist you in scheduling an appointment for vaccination.