Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect both humans and animals. It is caused by a bacteria called leptospira. These bacteria penetrate the mucus membranes and once they get into the bloodstream, they start to multiply rapidly. They then spread into other tissues, including the liver, kidneys, eyes, nervous system and others. Here you will find everything that you need to know about leptospirosis in dogs.

Transmission of Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is typically transmitted in one of four ways. It can be passed through infected urine, placental transfer, ingestion of infected tissue and bite wounds. It is typically more common in areas where there are multiple dogs and overcrowding, like in kennels. While these are ways that it is directly transmitted, it can also be indirectly transmitted through infected food, water and bedding. The weather can also play a part. Stagnant water is often a suitable environment for leptospira. Therefore, if there has been flooding, the risks are higher. Freezing can also play a part. In areas that freeze, these organisms have a less likelihood of survival. This is why it is much more prevalent during the summer months.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Dogs

When a dog has leptospirosis, they will typically have a fever of anywhere between 103 and 104 degrees. They may shiver and have muscle tenderness or weakness. These are among the first signs. As it progresses, they will likely start to vomit and become dehydrated very quickly. If it gets severe, they may even develop hypothermia and experience kidney or liver failure. This is why it is so important to have your dog seen by a veterinarian at the first sign of a problem. Sometimes, however, a dog may show no signs or symptoms of infection. They may just be shedding the bacteria through their urine, without any trace of sickness. This is typically due to chronic infection.

Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs

If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, it is important to begin treatment right away. The disease can get out of hand really quickly if you are not persistent with it. Typically, the course of treatment will consist of antibiotic medications, IV fluids, and medications to help control the symptoms that come along with it, like nausea or infection. Your veterinarian will likely start your dog out on a round of penicillin. Once they get the initial infection under control, they will likely give them doxycycline to prevent them from being a long term carrier of the infection. Don’t underestimate the importance of continuing the treatment through to completion, because it is essential to your dog’s wellbeing and health in the future.


While leptospirosis can be fatal in dogs, it typically is something that doesn’t result in death. If you catch the signs early on and get them on treatment right away, it is likely that they will make a full recovery in just a couple of weeks. If you ignore the signs, however, your dog may not be as fortunate. Once dehydration sets in, it can take a turn for the worse quickly. Make sure that you keep a close eye on your dog if they are exhibiting any signs of infection.

Preventing Leptospirosis in Dogs

The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to help reduce the risk of infection for your dog.

First, you will want to keep your dog away from stagnant water sources and other animals that are known for being chronic carriers. There are also a few vaccines that are available on the market, but it is unknown how effective they are. They do cover a variety of different species of leptospira, but they are chemically inactivated, making them more likely to result in adverse reactions. The vaccine is something that you will need to talk to your veterinarian about. It will offer your dog around 6 months of protection. If your dog is at a higher risk of infection, they may recommend that they get the vaccine twice a year. Talk to your vet to see if this vaccine is something that is necessary for your pup.

Leptospirosis in dogs can be very serious but it is treatable. Be sure to stay on top of your dog’s regular veterinary care. If you have any questions about your dog’s health and wellbeing, call and talk to your veterinarian. They may recommend coming in for a checkup just to make sure that your pup is healthy.

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