Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacteria, Leptospira interrogans. This bacteria is found in contaminated soil and water worldwide. It can infect your dogs, other mammals, and even humans. It is considered a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread from animals to people. This becomes a significant risk to the health of you and your family if your dog is infected. Thankfully, there is a leptospirosis vaccination for dogs to help mitigate the risk of infection.
Dogs in contact with rivers, lakes, or streams, are at the highest risk of contracting leptospirosis as well as animals exposed to infected wildlife, even in your own backyard. This describes the majority of active Colorado dogs, especially dogs living in our mountain communities who are in contact with wildlife on a daily basis. Exposure occurs through contact with infected urine, water, soil, eating infected carcasses, and multiple other routes of transmission.
The signs of leptospirosis can range from mild to severe illness and even death. Increased thirst, changes in the frequency of urination, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and jaundice are just a few symptoms that can occur with leptospirosis. The main organs infected in severe illness are the kidneys and liver. Since there are many symptoms that occur from leptospirosis that can get confused with other diseases, additional testing is required for diagnosis. This will include bloodwork, urine tests, and any additional diagnostic tests if deemed necessary by your veterinarian. Treatment for leptospirosis usually includes multiple days of hospitalization with aggressive therapy. If treated early, the chance of recovery is good, but there is a risk of permanent kidney and liver damage.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) produces vaccination guidelines for veterinary medicine. Currently, the leptospirosis vaccine is listed as a non-core vaccine. This means that it is only recommended for dogs that have a higher risk of exposure. Due to the active lifestyle of most dogs in Colorado, the vaccine is essential. Annual revaccination for leptospirosis is required to maintain the best immunity.
Even though becoming infected with leptospirosis is relatively uncommon, the severe form of the disease can cause significant consequences for your pet, including permanent kidney and liver damage, and even death. The leptospirosis vaccine is an important part of your dog's yearly wellness visit, especially for dogs in the Evergreen area. If you have any additional questions or are interested in getting your dog vaccinated for leptospirosis, please contact Evergreen Animal Hospital in Evergreen, Colorado at (303) 674-4331 today to schedule an appointment.