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Posted on 03-05-2017

Due to a great deal of news coverage, you may have heard about the recent outbreak of Leptospirosis in Arizona in the recent months. You may hear these stories and think, “Lepto-spi-WHAT-sis?!” and wonder if your dog could be at risk. Arizona did not previously have Leptospirosis as a concern until now. We did not routinely vaccinate for it as there was no risk in Phoenix. That has changed in the last 3 months. It is now present in the valley and is a health concern for most dogs. We now recommend vaccination.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which affects the liver and kidneys. There is a vaccine for Leptospirosis – it is very important to consider having your dog vaccinated for Leptospirosis if it travels anywhere outside of your own home or yard, but especially, if your dog is visits dog parks, doggie daycare, boarding or grooming facilities, engages in hiking and swimming in/drinking of non-chlorinated bodies of water, is exposed to standing water or areas prone to flooding, has contact with other species of animals, such as livestock or wild animals, or if your dog travels frequently or has contact with dogs that travel frequently or is a hunting dog.

The Leptospirosis vaccine consists of an initial administration and a booster 3-4 weeks later, with the vaccine repeated annually. Annual vaccination for Leptospirosis is recommended for dogs.

Leptospirosis was typically spread through the urine of infected rodents and wild animals, and through similarly contaminated bodies of water, either by drinking this water or swimming in it; dogs can acquire Leptospirosis from swimming in contaminated water if their skin is thin or damaged. Dog parks, grooming facilities, and boarding facilities are sites that can harbor Leptospirosis due to the large amount of dogs congregating in one place and those dogs’ exposure to potentially infected urine of a carrier dog. Leptospirosis can live in water and damp soil for an extended period of time.

Different strains of the Leptospirosis bacteria are responsible for different signs and symptoms. The symptoms of Leptospirosis infection in dogs are varied, and can be similar to other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can range from fever, depression, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, redness of the eyes, excessive drinking and urination, or lack of urination, depending on which strain of Leptospirosis has been contracted. Some dogs will not show symptoms but can be carriers of Leptospirosis. Testing is done on both blood and urine samples.

Treatment usually consists of antibiotics, which can help decrease shedding of the Leptospirosis bacteria through the urine. If one dog in the household is being treated with antibiotics for Leptospirosis, it is a good idea to treat all other dogs in the household as well, as a precautionary measure. For some dogs hospitalization is necessary.

Leptospirosis can be contracted by humans, though only rarely. It is important to take care when cleaning up urine of a dog that may have the disease, wearing rubber gloves to avoid skin contact with potentially infected urine, wash clothing or other items that may have come into contact with pet urine, and avoid areas where pets urinate frequently. A dilute solution of bleach and water (1 part bleach to 9 parts water), disinfectant cleaners, as well as normal laundering of clothing kills the Leptospirosis bacteria; it is important to disinfect any areas where the dog may have urinated.

If you are concerned about your dog’s potential to contract Leptospirosis, it is a good idea to vaccinate out of an abundance of caution. Our doctors can examine your dog and discuss their particular risk factors with you, to determine if the Leptospirosis vaccine would be a wise choice. Feel free to contact us with questions!

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