All You Need to Know About Leptospirosis in Dogs

by | Aug 23, 2021 | Dog Health


Does your dog like exploring damp, murky places or playing in the water? Or maybe it likes playing with other dogs then ends up scratched by another animal?  

Exercise extra caution because these activities could put your dog at risk of getting leptospirosis. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at this bacterial infection and inform you on how to detect the signs, determine its causes, and what you can do for treatment and prevention.

What is leptospirosis in dogs?

Leptospirosis is a common bacterial infection in dogs. The disease is prevalent in places like marshy areas with stagnant surface water, heavily irrigated pastures, and other wet environments.

Once infected, the bacteria will infiltrate your dog’s body by clamping to their skin. The infection will spread through your pet’s bloodstream and organs and target your dog’s eyes, liver, kidney, central nervous system, and reproductive system. Leptospirosis can cause major damage to these organs and even organ failure if left untreated. 

Puppies and young dogs with weak immune systems have the highest risk of severe complications. Early detection is important so your dog can recover quickly from the disease. 

What are the signs of canine leptospirosis?

Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for if you suspect your canine has been infected with leptospirosis:

  • Fever and illness: It takes 4-12 days after contamination before your dog can develop a fever.
  • Loss of appetite: Infected dogs tend to lose their appetite when infected.  
  • Fatigue: Leptospirosis can result in muscle soreness, which could make your dog feel weak and reluctant to move.
  • Increased thirst and urination: Rapid dehydration is a common effect of leptospirosis in dogs. It could also be a sign of chronic kidney failure.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: It is common for infected pets to vomit and frequently defecate. If your dog’s stool contains the presence of blood, bring your canine to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Changes in body color: Leptospirosis can also result in anemic symptoms, such as yellowish skin and eyes. You may also notice your dog’s gums turn dark red.

What are the causes of dog leptospirosis?

Some factors can make your pooch more prone to leptospirosis. Here are some that you should take note of:

Direct Contact: Dogs commonly get infected by leptospirosis because of direct contact with infected urine from infected animals such as raccoons, skunks, wild cats, and other dogs. If your pooch has open sores on the skin, it increases their chances of contracting the disease. 

Exposure to contaminated environments: Leptospirosis can be transmitted through mud or stagnant water that your dog can swim, pass through, or drink. So as much as possible, try to keep your dog away from wet and muddy environments. 

 Additionally, some dogs have a higher risk of contracting leptospirosis. These include:

  • Hunting and sporting dogs
  • Dogs living in wooded areas or near farms
  • Dogs that spend time in a kennel

How is canine leptospirosis diagnosed?

If you suspect your dog has leptospirosis, take them to the vet ASAP. Early treatment will help your dog recover quickly and avoid the condition from getting worse.

When you take your pooch to the vet, provide specific details such as your dog’s recent activities, medical history, and possible causes. The information will make it easier for your vet to properly diagnose the condition and prescribe the right treatment. 

Your vet may also make your pet go through a set of tests, such as urine and blood sampling, complete blood count, chemical blood profile, urinalysis, electrolyte panel, and antibody urine test. These tests will help identify the severity of the infection in your dog.  

How do you treat dog leptospirosis?

Your vet may prescribe antibiotics depending on how severe the infection is. Penicillin, Ampicillin, and Tetracyclines are commonly prescribed to treat leptospirosis in dogs. These antibiotics will also help prevent your pooch from being carriers of the disease. The duration of treatment for antibiotics may take at least four weeks, depending on your vet. 

If your dog’s leptospirosis has resulted in other complications such as dehydration, your vet can conduct fluid therapy. They may also give your dog medicine to prevent vomiting. After all, dehydration could cause fatigue and prevent your dog from getting the proper nourishment. 

If your dog has a severe case of hemorrhaging, your vet may need to conduct a blood transfusion. Medication and other treatments for injuries and diseases can be costly, however. Getting a dog health insurance can help you give you peace of mind. 

Home care for your recovering dog

Help your dog recover after their treatment from leptospirosis with these additional measures:

  • Allow your dog to rest: Give your dog time to recover after being treated for leptospirosis so limit their physical activities for the meantime.
  • Maintain proper hydration: Leptospirosis can cause dehydration so make sure your dog is replenishing its fluids by giving them enough water to drink. 
  • Take safety precautions: Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which means it can spread from animals to people. So make sure to wear gloves at all times. Your dog’s waste and body’s fluids are considered biologically hazardous material, so properly dispose of their waste and sanitize their area. 
  • Minimize interactions: Keep your recovering dog away from other animals to prevent further complications and the spread of the disease.

In a similar vein, you may want to consult your vet about getting your dog vaccinated. A leptospirosis vaccine in dogs can prevent your pet from getting severe reactions to the disease. 

To learn more about how you can help take care of your pet and treat other conditions or injuries, explore the TLPOInfo blog.


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