Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect many animals but we most commonly diagnose it in dogs. There are many strains of the bacteria that are prevalent in different geographical areas and unfortunately the disease is zoonotic, which means it can be spread to humans. Although it normally causes mild flu-like symptoms in humans, Leptospirosis or Weil’s disease can cause internal bleeding and organ failure in its most severe form.
The bacteria survive in warm, humid conditions and tend to be present in stagnant water such as ponds. The disease is transmitted by wild animals especially rodents so rural pets and hunting dogs are most at risk. Dogs can become infected by ingestion or contact with gums/broken skin of contaminated water or by exposure to the urine of infected animals or from bite wounds or ingestion of tissues.
The body’s immune system can clear infection but bacteria can also be shed for months in urine due to presence in the kidneys. The bacteria can affect many organs and the severity of disease depends on many things including age but it can be mild or sometimes fatal due to kidney/liver failure.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Discharge from eyes and nose
Frequent urination then no urination
Jaundice (yellow gums, eyes and skin)
Leptospirosis treatment and prevention
Treatment is with antibiotics for extended periods but, as mentioned, the disease can be fatal if not treated early enough. Fortunately we can protect our dogs from this disease by routine vaccination.
Previous vaccinations available only covered against two strains of the disease but there is now a new tetravalent vaccine that covers against four strains, which have been demonstrated in the UK. So it is important to keep up to date with routine vaccinations and the leptospirosis part needs to be done yearly to be effective. We now use this vaccine at Blaircourt to give your animals the best protection. Your dog may just require a top up of the new vaccine 4 weeks after its booster vaccination if it has not had the new one before to stimulate immunity. We are offering this second jab free of charge.