Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

How does an animal catch leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is transmitted by contact with the urine of an infected animal, either directly or indirectly from the environment. A common example might be slow moving or still water which has been contaminated with the urine from infected rodents.  Infected rodents will often shed the bacteria in their urine for several years without ever showing any signs of illness.  As rodents are so widespread throughout the environment, any dog in contact with the outside, is potentially at risk from leptospirosis.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacteria affecting dogs, wild rodents and many, many other species. Humans can catch leptospirosis from an infected animal and it is considered the most widespread zoonotic disease in the world.

In humans, as in dogs, leptospirosis can be a potentially life-threatening disease.

Leptospirosis may present as:

Acute – this is a serious illness with high temperature and rapid spread of the bacteria to major organs such as the liver (causing jaundice) and kidneys.

Sub-acute – a slow growing problem which can be difficult to diagnose. Dogs often present with non-specific signs such as fever, vomiting, lethargy and possibly jaundice. Unfortunately, because the bacteria are affecting the liver and kidneys, long term damage may be done before a diagnosis is made.

Chronic – no symptoms at all, but the dog will shed the bacteria into the environment for weeks or even months.

The good news!

Leptospirosis vaccination has been included in the annual dog vaccination for several decades and previously targeted two of the most common forms of the bacteria.

Recently, however, two new strains of leptospirosis affecting dogs have emerged in the UK, Europe and the USA. In many cases, these strains are even more prevalent than the original ones.

The four strains of leptospirosis that are now included in the routine vaccination are:

  1. Canicola
  2. Icterohaemorrhagiae
  3. Interrogans (Bratislava)
  4. Grippotyphosa

Vaccination against leptospirosis provides immunity from disease for 12 months but thereafter, that immunity starts to wane. Vaccination not only prevents your dog from catching leptospirosis but also protects your family as the bacteria will not be shed in their urine.

Leptospirosis vaccination can be given on its own, but is most commonly included as part of the regular booster regime.

If you have any questions about the risk of leptospirosis to your pet please don’t hesitate to call and speak to one of our vets.

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