Recently at Cara Veterinary Clinic we have had a patient very ill with Leptospirosis. This case highlighted to us that Leptospirosis is prevalent in our area and we want to ensure that information is passed on to others so that they can protect their dogs through vaccination.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease.
How does my pet get Leptospirosis?
Dogs are most commonly affected compared to cats. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animals eg foxes or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs. None of us can be sure that our pet when outdoors will not cross paths with an area where a rodent has urinated. Dogs can become infected and develop leptospirosis if their mucous membranes – in their eyes, nose and mouth – (or skin with any cuts or scrapes) come into contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by eating infected tissues or carcasses; and rarely, through breeding. It can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies.
What are the signs of Leptospirosis in my dog?
The signs of leptospirosis in dogs vary. Some infected dogs do not show any signs of illness, some have a mild and transient illness and recover spontaneously, while others develop severe illness and death. Signs of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes and gums), or painful inflammation within the eyes. The disease can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure. Dogs may occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing. Leptospirosis can cause bleeding disorders, which can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots. Affected dogs can also develop swollen legs (from fluid accumulation) or accumulate excess fluid in their chest or abdomen.
Leptospirosis may be suspected based on the exposure history and signs shown by the dog, but
many of these signs can also be seen with other diseases. In addition to a physical examination, we will need a number of other tests such as blood tests, urine tests, radiographs (x-rays), and an ultrasound examination.
How is Leptospirosis treated?
Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage. As the liver and kidneys are damaged in Leptospirosis your dog will likely need to be hospitalised for many nights and need constant supportive care including drips, tube feeding, anti sickness medication and specialised diets.
How can I prevent Leptospirosis in our dog?
Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended as the vaccination protection declines after 12 months. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection. If you are unsure of your pet’s vaccination status, please contact the clinic on (028) 66 347 613.
Leptospirosis can infect my family?
Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk. If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, you will need to take precautions to protect yourself. Speak with our team to get guidelines on protecting your family if your dog has had a Leptospirosis diagnosis.
If you are ill or if you have questions about leptospirosis in people, consult your doctor. If you are pregnant or immunocompromised, consult your doctor for advice.
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What is Microchipping for?
From April 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all dogs over the age of 8 weeks to be microchipped. If a dog is found not to be microchipped, then owners can face a fine up to £500. The microchip is a small electronic chip which is implanted underneath the animal’s skin between the two shoulder blades. It is a quick procedure which can be carried out at Cara Veterinary Clinic. We have a sample microchip on display for owners to see, if you would like to see what a microchip looks like call into the clinic.
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