Leptospirosis (sometimes shortened to simply saying “lepto”) is a disease that is caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira. It has many strains and can be spread by local wildlife in soil and standing water such as lakes, ponds, and puddles. While it is typically found in areas with warmer climates and higher annual rainfall, it can essentially be found anywhere. It has been shown to be prevalent in our area and we have seen positive cases of leptospirosis. It most commonly affects dogs and seems to be rare in cats. Lepto is classified as a “zoonotic disease” meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It is generally spread through urine of an infected animal and can cause flu-like symptoms and even kidney or liver disease in people.
In recent years, we have seen an increase in the occurrence of leptospirosis and have now begun to vaccinate dogs against it in order to hopefully slow the spread of this potentially life-threatening disease. While you may think that larger hunting dogs are most affected, it has actually been shown that smaller dogs weighing less than 14lbs are more likely to be infected than larger dogs weighing 33-60lbs. Dogs can be infected by coming in contact with soil, water, food, etc. that has been contaminated with infected urine. It can also be spread from them eating infected animal carcasses. Any breed can be affected, even small breeds. Signs of lepto can include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, yellowing of the gums/skin, inappetence, lethargy, increased thirst, urinary changes, weakness/muscle tenderness, or even ocular pain/inflammation. Some dogs will even develop kidney failure with or without liver failure, lung disease or bleeding disorders. More than 25% of leptospirosis cases have been fatal.
Vaccinating yearly is now recommended for dogs potentially at risk for leptospirosis. It has been shown that dogs not vaccinated for leptospirosis are 20 times more likely to be affected than vaccinated ones. At Willow Grace, we offer a combination vaccine that protects against distemper, Lyme disease, and lepto all in one small injection. Call us today at 302-378-9800 to get more information about how you can protect your pet!