All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a spirochete, an organism similar to bacteria.
It can cause illness in many types of animals, including dogs and cats. People that
come in contact with an animal that has leptospirosis can also be infected. The
remainder of this article will look at the spread, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and
prevention of leptospirosis.
Spread. Leptospirosis can be spread from animal to animal in many different
ways. The organism is typically shed in urine. The organism can be carried in food,
water, and soil that becomes contamined by urine. It can enter an animal (or human)
through any open wound or directly through the mucus membranes of the mouth, eyes, or
Signs. Since the leptospirosis organisms can infect many different organ systems,
signs can vary greatly. Signs can include any or all of the following: fever, loss
of appetite, depression, vomiting, muscle tenderness, shock, clotting problems, kidney
problems, and liver problems.
Diagnosis. Diagnosis may be difficult. Workup should include a complete blood
count, a chemistry panel, and a urinalysis. Serology and/or cultures may be necessary
to prove the presence of the organism.
Treatment. Treatment should include supportive care and be aimed at correcting
the problems at hand. Treatment may include IV catheter placement and administration
of fluids, blood transfusions, and antibiotics.
Prevention. There are vaccinations available for the prevention of leptospirosis.
Most canine distemper combination vaccines include a vaccine for leptospirosis. At
least two doses are required initially with boosters strongly recommended annually.
Current vaccinations cover 2 or 4 different types or serovars of leptospirosis, however
there are other, lesser common serovars that can cause infection that do not have
vaccinations available at this time.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002