The disease leptospirosis can affect several types of animals as well as people. However, it’s rare for animals other than dogs and for people to acquire the virus. The disease received its name from genus leptospira, which describes a related, complex group of bacteria. Currently, several different strains of the leptospirosis virus exist. The bacteria are typically located in standing bodies of water such as ponds. They also have a high survival rate and thrive in warm, humid climates. All dog owners should understand the symptoms of this virus and know how to protect their dog from acquiring it.
The Symptoms of Leptospirosis and How Dogs Transmit It
Drinking contaminated water is the most common way that dogs pick up leptospirosis. Your dog could also acquire the virus through contact with the urine of a dog who already has it. This typically happens among dogs who share bedding or who root in the same soil. Additionally, a dog who already has the virus could bite your dog or he could ingest tissues from a previously infected animal.
Once the virus enters your dog’s body, it can quickly spread to several different tissues. Although her immune system can fight much of it off, parts of the virus may travel to your dog’s kidneys. When this happens, your dog will shed the leptospirosis virus when she urinates for the next several months. Antibiotics can help to eliminate the virus from her body entirely, including the kidneys.
Depending on the strain of virus your dog picks up, symptoms can be mild, severe, or somewhere in between. It depends on many individual factors, including the age of your dog and whether he has previously received immunization. The most common symptoms associated with leptospirosis include:
- Frequent Urination
- Joint or muscle pain
- Lack of appetite
- Discharge from eyes or nose
Treating and Preventing Leptospirosis
If you suspect that your dog has this virus, we encourage you to contact Battletown Animal Hospital for an immediate appointment. Your dog’s veterinarian will ask you to describe her symptoms as well as take a blood and urine sample. One thing especially challenging about making a positive diagnosis of leptospirosis is that its symptoms are like many other diseases. After determining this is indeed what your dog has, we will start her on antibiotics made specifically to treat it.
Your dog will require more aggressive treatment, such as anti-vomiting medication and intravenous fluids, if we confirm kidney or liver involvement. Unfortunately, treatment tends to be less successful at this advanced stage.
A simple vaccination against leptospirosis can give you valuable peace of mind. Please speak to your dog’s veterinarian about his risk factors to determine if this is the right choice for your family. Other things you can do are prevent your dog from digging in soil, drinking stagnant water, and sharing bedding with other dogs.
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