Leptosporosis, or lepto as it is commonly called, is an emerging infectious disease that poses a risk to both pets and humans. It is also zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from pets or other animals to people. We have seen an increasing number of cases involving leptosporosis in California and in fact lepto is the most widespread zoonotic disease worldwide (especially in developing countries).
This infectious disease, caused by many different strains of the bacteria Leptospira, is thought to enter the body by contact with infected water or urine from wildlife/animal carriers. Once the pet becomes infected the bacteria can spread to the liver, kidney, central nervous system, eyes, spleen or genital tract. If that occurs, the animal may lack any signs or may have symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting or dehydration. Using bloodwork, urinalysis, and advanced testing techniques, we can diagnose the disease. Treatment often involves aggressive IV fluids to treat kidney failure and IV antibiotics to treat the bacteria specifically. Quick action can help save most pets with survival rates at 70-85%. Since the disease can infect people, our hospital needs to keep affected animals alone and away from others (quarantined) during treatment to prevent spreading the disease to our staff and minimize risk to pet owners.
Luckily, for dogs at risk we have an annual vaccine that helps protect against the main strains of the bacteria. It is not currently a core vaccine as many dogs are not exposed (indoor only). However, if your dog is outdoor and active in places that have stagnant water, rivers, lakes, etc. you should consider getting this vaccine for your pet. Have fun out there this summer, and be safe!