Spring’s almost here – so is leptospirosis. A few tips from Dr. Patten for keeping your pup safe.
Warmer weather means more time outside with your dog, more walks, more hikes in the Wissahickon, and more time in the yard. However, increased temperatures also come with a rise in certain diseases that can be transmitted to dogs. We often think of an increase in fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes as the weather warms, but leptospirosis is a disease all dog owners should be aware of.
Leptospira is a bacteria which can be carried by wildlife, most often rats and raccoons. In Philadelphia most dogs have exposure to rats or raccoons, whether they live in urban or wooded parts of the city. Infected wildlife can shed leptospira bacteria in their urine and infect their surrounding environment. Leptospira bacteria thrive in warm moist environments, such as damp soil or slow moving or stagnant water.
Dogs become infected if they ingest water or soil contaminated with Leptospira bacteria, have an open abrasion that is exposed to the contaminated environment, or ingest an animal infected with Leptospira. If detected early leptospirosis can be treated but leptospirosis can cause significant kidney and liver damage. Leptospira bacteria can also be spread from dogs to humans through contaminated urine. Due to the risk to dogs and people, precautions should be taken to protect against Leptospira infection.
All dogs who have any risk for contracting leptospirosis should be vaccinated. Contact your veterinarian to discuss the vaccine. Other ways to prevent leptospirosis are to remove standing water from your environment, do not let your dog drink standing puddles of water or stagnant water, and to control the rodent population. Signs of leptospirosis may include increased drinking, increased urination, anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, and fever. Veterinarians can perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has leptospirosis.