by Katherine Khoo February 07, 2024 5 min read

Canine leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can have serious consequences in dogs and can also affect humans. The disease is caused by Leptospira, which are spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochetes and there are many strains of Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water and they thrive in warm and humid environments, making them particularly prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions like Singapore.

Canine Leptospirosis

How is leptospirosis spread?

Understanding the transmission mode of Leptospira is crucial for implementing effective preventive measures. Let’s look into how Leptospira is transmitted, the key factors contributing to its spread, and what individuals can do to minimise the risk of infection.

Transmission through Animal Urine

The primary mode of transmission of Leptospira bacteria is through the urine of infected animals. Various mammals, including rodents, livestock, and pets like dogs, can carry and excrete the bacteria in their urine. When these animals urinate, the bacteria can contaminate the surrounding environment, including soil and water sources. Please be aware that infected dogs can seem healthy but still pass Leptospira bacteria in their urine.

Environmental Persistence

Leptospira can survive in the environment for weeks to months, depending on factors such as temperature and humidity. In warm and humid conditions, the bacteria can persist for more extended periods, increasing the risk of transmission.

Water as a Vector

Water plays a crucial role in the transmission of Leptospira. The bacteria can thrive in both freshwater and moist soil. Contaminated water sources, such as ponds, puddles, and rivers, become potential vectors for transmission. Our dogs can become infected by direct contact with contaminated water or through activities that bring them into contact with the bacteria. Leptospira can enter the body through ingestion, broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth).

What are the signs of leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis in dogs can present with a range of symptoms. Here are some of the common signs and these may be seen in varying degrees of severity:

  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Stiffness and soreness

According to AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), the disease can progress to kidney and/or liver failure. Some dogs may develop severe lung disease and rapid, difficulty breathing. Damage to the heart muscle has been suspected in some cases. Leptospirosis also can cause bleeding disorders, which can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, faeces (stool), or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots on the gums or other mucous membranes, or light-coloured skin. Fluid can build up in the body, causing swollen legs or excess fluid in the chest or abdomen.

Canine Leptospirosis

How can I protect my dog against canine leptospirosis?

Prevention is crucial in safeguarding both human and canine health. Here are effective measures to prevent leptospirosis.

Vaccination

Ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, including the leptospirosis vaccine. Regular booster shots are essential for ongoing protection. Leptospirosis is considered a non-core vaccine (an optional vaccine). If you are concerned about this disease, do speak with your vet about getting the vaccination for your pup.

Avoidance of Contaminated Water

Discourage your dog from drinking water from unknown or potentially contaminated sources during walks or outings, like stagnant water. Avoid letting them swim in rivers, lakes, ponds, marshy areas, or slow-moving, stagnant water.

Rodent Control

Reduce the risk of transmission by controlling rodent populations around your home and dog's living area.

Hygiene Practices

Practise good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly after handling animals, especially if they have been in outdoor environments. Quickly clean up any urine in the home.

What to do if my dog contracts leptospirosis?

If you suspect your dog has leptospirosis, prompt action is crucial!

Consult a Veterinarian

Seek immediate veterinary attention for a proper diagnosis. Early detection and treatment are essential for a better prognosis.

Isolate Infected

Dog Isolate the infected dog to prevent the potential spread of the bacteria to other pets or humans.

Treatment

Treatment typically involves antibiotics and supportive care. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations closely.

 

Canine Leptospirosis

Hygiene and Safety Measures

Practise strict hygiene when caring for an infected dog. Wear gloves when handling bodily fluids and wash your hands with soap and water. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands, and cover cuts, scratches, blisters and skin breaks with waterproof, sterilising coverings, and change coverings regularly. Seek help early if you feel unwell after touching an infected dog.

Disinfect Surfaces and Materials

The leptospira bacterium is very sensitive to disinfectants, soaps and many other household chemicals. So, clean and disinfect all surfaces thoroughly. Start by removing all urine stains with enzymatic cleaners. The Kin+Kind Pee+Stain+Odor Destroyer (Citrus) Hardwood & Floor Spray is designed to be used on hard surfaces. For stains on carpet and upholstery, use the Kin+Kind Pee+Stain+Odor Destroyer Fabric & Carpet Spray. Once you’ve removed the stains, clean the carpet and upholstery. A normal laundry detergent will do fine. For extra precaution, you can also consider soaking the fabrics in the F10 Super Concentrate XD Disinfectant/Cleanser (with Detergent) before washing them.

Clean your dog’s cages/kennel with soap and water. Ensure thorough rinsing leaving no traces of soap residue. Apply a pet-safe disinfectant like this F10 Super Concentrate Disinfectant to the kennel and allow it to air dry completely. Adequate drying is essential to prevent the growth of bacteria in damp areas. Wash all removable items, such as bowls, bedding, and toys with pet-safe detergent. Again, you can consider soaking these items in the F10 Super Concentrate XD Disinfectant/Cleanser (with Detergent) before scrubbing and washing. Ensure they are thoroughly dry before returning them to the kennel. Finally, mop your home with a pet-friendly floor cleaner like this Bio-Home Pet Safe Lemongrass And Green Tea Floor Cleaner For Home.

Monitor Other Pets and Humans

Keep a close eye on other pets and family members for any signs of illness, and seek medical attention if symptoms arise.

 

Canine Leptospirosis

How is leptospirosis diagnosed and treated?

Because leptospirosis can mimic other diseases, your veterinarian will rely on your assistance to establish a diagnosis. This involves sharing details about your dog's lifestyle and travel history, shedding light on potential exposure to Leptospira bacteria. Alongside a comprehensive physical examination, your veterinarian might suggest specific blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, and an ultrasound examination. The selection of these tests typically depends on the nature and severity of the illness.

The standard treatment for leptospirosis involves antibiotics and supportive care. The extent of a dog's sickness determines the necessity for fluid therapy, particular medications, and nutritional support. In cases of severe illness, dogs may require intensive care measures such as oxygen therapy, mechanical respiratory support, or dialysis.

When leptospirosis is promptly treated, the prognosis for recovery is favourable. However, there remains a risk of lasting kidney or liver damage. For dogs facing challenges in urination despite supportive treatment, a referral for dialysis can offer vital support until kidney function is restored, potentially saving their lives. Dogs with severe respiratory disease, even with treatment, are less likely to achieve a full recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Katherine Khoo
KATHERINE KHOO
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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