Leptospirosis (lepto) is a disease caused by a bacteria called Leptospira interrogans. It can infect multiple species of mammals, including humans, dogs, rats, mice, raccoons, skunks, opossums, cows, and pigs. Lepto is occasionally diagnosed in dogs in LA County.
In dogs: Symptoms are variable and are most commonly associated with kidney damage which may include fever, lethargy, low appetite, vomiting and increased or decreased urination and thirst. Diarrhea and liver damage or yellowed mucus membranes (gums) may also be seen.
In humans: Symptoms are variable and may include fever, severe headache, and muscle aches. In severe cases, people may have yellowed mucus membranes, cause kidney damage and respiratory distress. Click here to learn more about lepto in people.
Infection occurs when the urine of an infected animal contacts the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin of another animal or a person. Exposure to water or mud contaminated with urine may also spread it. In the United States, most human cases of lepto occur after recreational exposure to contaminated lakes or streams, not from dogs. The bacteria is shed in the urine of an infected dog. Therefore a person caring for a dog with lepto should wear gloves, especially when cleaning up urine.
Veterinarians treat infected pets by administering specific antibiotics that can kill the bacteria. Most dogs with lepto are seriously ill and should be treated in a veterinary hospital.
1. Wildlife Control. Do not attract wildlife to your yard. Do not leave your pet’s food and water outside at night. If you have water outdoors for your pet during the day, wash and change your pet’s water bowl daily in case it was contaminated by the urine of wild animals. If you suspect a rat or mouse infestation in your house, consult an exterminator.
2. Consider vaccinating your dog for lepto. Local data suggest that a variety of Leptospira serotypes (strains) of bacteria may cause illness in dogs. Therefore the 4-way vaccines (protecting against 4 strains of the bacteria) are a better choice for protection than the 2-way vaccines.