dog health

Dog Diseases In Autumn: The Leptospirosis

Anyone who has a dog and scrupulously follows the vaccination calendar of his 4-legged friend has certainly marked in red on the calendar one of the dates of early autumn. This is the period in which the animal has the greatest chance of contracting leptospirosis, and this is therefore the season in which, every year, it is advisable to administer the vaccine. It is in fact one of the most dangerous infections, both for the dog – if not cured leads to death – and for man, so as to be among the so-called zoonoses, diseases that can also affect the human species.

For this reason we think it is useful to give you some useful information on canine leptospirosis, some advice on how to identify the disease and what to do to eradicate it.

What Leptospirosis Is And What It Is Caused By

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection, the cause of which is a widespread bacterium called Leptospira interrogans. It is a spirochaete, a name that includes a large family of bacteria, and is thin, spiral-shaped and with a hook at the apex.

There are many serotypes, about 200, of the bacterium that causes leptospirosis, but not all of them are extremely dangerous and, above all, not all of them are pathogenic for humans: those most involved in canine leptospirosis are the canine, the jaundice, the supporter group and Bratislava.

Leptospires are released into the environment through the urine of infected animals such as rodents, wild and domestic animals, but are the first (especially mice) the most dangerous reservoir. They are sneaky as well as dangerous bacteria, because they can live in the host for years without showing up or creating problems.

How It Is Transmitted

This dangerous infection can be transmitted in two ways: by direct contact and indirectly.

In the first case the main transmission channels are:

  • Contact with infected urine, both dog and mouse urine;
  • Venereal contact, therefore with infected blood;
  • Via transplacental.

In the second case, the indirect way, here are the most frequent possibilities of transmission:

  • Contaminated soil;
  • Contaminated water;
  • Contaminated food;
  • Contaminated litters.

It goes without saying that under conditions of overcrowding the disease spreads more because, after infection, dogs eliminate the pathogen in the urine, even for months. The ideal habitat for leptospires is warm, stagnant water, while temperatures below zero are fatal for them.

This is why the ideal period for infection is the end of summer, or rather the transition between this and autumn, and this is the time when it is necessary to submit the animal to vaccination.

One of the direct ways of transmission, as mentioned above, is the penetration of the bacterium through wounds and abrasions: this is also the way in which most often man encounters leptospirosis.


The two organs most affected by the disease are the kidney and the liver.

Kidney damage is usually caused by infection with heaths and fan glands, while jaundice and pompons cause more liver symptoms.

The type of disorders that the disease can cause varies according to age, the state of the dog’s immune system and the type of leptospira involved, but depends mainly on the progress of the infection.

In the subacute phase the main symptoms are:

  • Fever, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • Lethargy, difficulty breathing, coughing;
  • Consistent weight loss;
  • Renal insufficiency;
  • Motion Reluctance.

Some of these, such as fever, increase exponentially when the infection has passed to the acute phase.

Sudden death of the animal is frequent: after an incubation period of 4 to 12 days, in fact, the most acute manifestation occurs and, in case of lack of treatment, the death.

The dogs most exposed to the disease are young and large, among the breeds can be identified more subject to those suitable for hunting.

How To Detect And Treat Dog Leptospirosis

One of the symptoms listed above, even in mild form, can be a good indicator. At this point you should consult your vet, also to avoid any risk of infection for you and those around you. Then you need urine analysis, a complete blood test, serological and bacteriological tests, X-rays, darkfield microscopy, and a coagulation profile.

The therapy will vary depending on the state of the leptospires, in any case you have to rehydrate the dog, treat vomiting and diarrhea, administer diuretics. In order to kill the bacteria, usually the vets use a therapy based on penicillin, which reduce the fever and lower the risk of complications.

Precautions And Prevention

One of the causes that can lead man to contract the disease is to have direct contact with the animal, before suspecting the infection: a little ‘caution, especially if it is a hunting dog or if you have taken him to places at risk, can avoid nasty surprises.

If you have any doubt that your dog has contracted leptospirosis, then, the first thing to do is not to touch him with your bare hands: to cuddle him, it is better to use latex gloves, and the same thing the vet will do. Another useful trick is to avoid that he drinks from polluted wells or sources or otherwise not drinkable.

Finally, be careful of any contact with mice, who are often carriers of the disease.

As far as prevention is concerned, without prejudice to all the previous advice, it would be a good idea to vaccinate the dog, since it is also a dangerous zoonosis.

Well, the existing vaccines act only against canine leptospirosis and jaundice bleeding, the most frequent, but recently it has been marketed one that protects against all major serotypes. In any case, the spread of vaccination has made the disease less common.

For this and other unforeseen events when taking care of your dog, it is important to be able to count on trained professionals and state-of-the-art facilities, able to offer the necessary support to you and your animal and, if possible, ensure its survival. The costs of both examinations and treatment are not affordable for everyone, and for this reason it may be a wise choice to consider the opportunity of a health insurance for pets. To extend the life of our friend and make us sleep peacefully.

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