Which of these two dogs are more likely to contract a severe bacterial infection: a small miniature pincher or a large Labrador retriever? Give up? The answer is that both of these dogs have the same risk of becoming infected by Leptospira interrogans, a harmful bacterium, that causes leptospirosis.
The bacterium is shed through the urine of infected animals such as rats and raccoons. The autumn and spring seasons are especially dangerous as the bacterium can survive in the moderate temperatures and wet, moist soil. Dogs typically contract leptospirosis infections by drinking from puddles contaminated by urine runoff, eating infected soil, or simply by coming into direct contact with infected urine.
Dogs that have been infected by the bacterium will begin showing signs of fever, joint pain, depression, increased thirst, and nausea approximately a week after being exposed. The bacterium then travels to the kidneys, eventually causing them to fail. Symptoms of kidney failure include: increased drinking and urination. The bacterium, when established in the kidneys, begins to affect other organs as well, particularly the liver. Liver function, when compromised, is indicated by signs of jaundice or yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. Jaundice can also result in the production of darker pigmented urine, ranging from a bright yellow to dark orange.
When leptospirosis is discovered early, antibiotics can help rid the body of the bacteria and prevent further organ damage. However, if the infection is more advanced, hospitalization is required to administer the necessary intravenous fluids and antibiotics to support the patient through the illness. If leptospirosis is suspected, it is best to submit a urine and blood samples to evaluate liver and kidney function at the first sign of symptoms.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease; it is contagious to humans. When the bacteria are established in the kidneys, they can be shed intermittently through the urine. A person who comes into contact with infected urine is at risk of contracting the disease and developing symptoms of kidney and liver damage. Therefore, it is best to avoid contact with contaminated urine and wear gloves when cleaning up after infected pets.
Further preventative measures against leptospirosis include regularly vaccinating your dog. The Lepto Vaccine protects your pet against most of the common strains of the disease. The vaccine is administered in a series of two injections to be given three weeks apart. Dogs receive an annual booster thereafter. While the vaccine is unable to protect against all strains of the virus it does greatly reduce the dangers of your pet contracting this serious infection. Help make playing outdoors safe and fun for you and your pet, talk to your veterinarian today about leptospirosis