Recently, there’s been a lot of news in New Jersey with vets warning about increased instances of the disease leptospirosis in dogs due likely to the milder winter we had. The disease is potentially serious, caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. Because of this increased risk, we’ve put together this list on what you need to know about lepto in dogs, so that you can be aware and make sure your dog is protected.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection in dogs the causes the disease commonly referred to as lepto. It is more common in areas with warm, damp climates and high annual rainfall. With the mild winter New Jersey recently had, and recent increase in precipitation, it makes sense that veterinarians are seeing a sudden rise in this disease in dogs. Even more important to understand, lepto can be spread from dogs to other animals, including humans!

How is lepto transmitted?

The bacteria that causes leptospirosis can be found in soil and water, and often occurs in dogs who drink from stagnant water sources, especially puddles. Most commonly, the disease comes from rat urine, but it can be transmitted in other ways too. In dogs, lepto occurs when they are exposed to the bacteria in the environment and the bacteria is able to enter the body through cuts and scrapes, or through gums and mouth and other mucous membranes. 

Can you prevent or treat leptospirosis?

In a word, yes. There is a vaccination for lepto available that can prevent your dog from contracting the disease. It is a very effective disease, and requires annual revaccination after the initial series. 

If your dog is not vaccinated and contracts the disease, they can be treated with antibiotics. Chances of recover are good, if the dog is diagnosed early and it is treated aggressive, but there is always still the risk of residual or even permanent kidney and/or liver damage.

Prevention, in addition to annual vaccination, includes limiting exposure of your dog to stagnant water, lakes, puddles, and even mud, especially when it comes to drinking. Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water, and keep your dog on a leash when in areas where there are lakes or ponds nearby.

What should I look for if I think my dog may have lepto?

Symptoms of leptospirosis can vary, and often include fever, shivering, body soreness, increased thirst, loss of appetite, and jaundice. If any of these symptoms occur, it’s important to contact your veterinarian and get your pet seen right away as this can be a sign of lepto or many other medical issues that require immediate veterinary attention.

Remember, leptospirosis is a dangerous disease that can be prevented. We understand the risks, and with the increased instances New Jersey is currently experiencing of leptospirosis in dogs, we’re offering a free office visit with your scheduled first lepto vaccine for your dog in the month of April. So contact us for an appointment and make sure your dog is protected today!

Interested in reading more? You can read the full AVMA article on leptospirosis for even more detailed information, or download their full brochure about leptospirosis today.