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Josey Ranch Pet Hospital, PC
... where caring makes the difference.

Date: September 1st 2005

Josey Ranch Pet Hospital, PC
... where caring makes the difference.
A Free Service of Josey Ranch Pet Hospital


Leptospirosis

~ Leptospirosis is a disease that is caused by a spiral shaped bacteria. It is a disease of worldwide significance that infects both animals & humans. The scientific name of the infecting organism is Leptospira interrogans. Within this species there are many different strains (serovars). Of these strains there are eight that are of importance for dogs and cats. These different strains produce different levels and types of disease depending on the animals they infect. While cats can be infected, they rarely show signs of disease. The disease is much more of a problem in cats and dogs.

~ Serovars that may cause disease in dogs.

Leptospira

Primary

Dog

Cat

Human

Other Domestic

Wild

Serovars

Host

 

 

 

Animals

Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bratislava

Rat, Pig

+

-

+

Cow, Horse

Mouse

 

Horse

 

 

 

 

Raccoon,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opossum,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vole,Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skunk

Autumnalis

Mouse

+

-

+

Cow

Rat,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raccoon,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opossum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ictero-

Rat

+

+

+

Cow, Horse

Mouse,

haemorrhagiae

 

 

 

 

Pig

Raccoon,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opossum,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox, Ape,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodchuck,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muskrat,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skunk,Civet

Pomona

Cow, Pig

+

+

+

Horse,

Mouse,

 

Skunk,

 

 

 

Sheep,

Raccoon,

 

Opossum

 

 

 

Goat, Rabbit

Hedgehog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolf, Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodchuck,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deer

Canicola

Dog

+

+

+

Cow, Horse

Rat,

 

 

 

 

 

Pig

Raccoon,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armadillo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mongoose,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skunk

Bataviae

Dog, Rat

+

+

+

Cow

Hedgehog,

 

Mouse

 

 

 

 

Armadillo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vole, Shrew

Hardjo

Cow

+

-

+

Pig, Horse

Wild

 

 

 

 

 

Sheep

Bovidae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grippotyphosa

Vole,

+

+

+

Cow, Pig

Mouse, Rat

 

Raccoon,

 

 

 

Sheep,

Fox, Squirrel,

 

Skunk,

 

 

 

Goat, Rabbit,

Bobcat,

 

Opossum

 

 

 

Gerbil

Shrew,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muskrat,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weasel

~ How can my dog become infected?

Dogs become infected by leptospirosis through contact with urine from infected animals. This infected urine may contaminate water or soil and can survive there for weeks or months; however, freezing greatly reduces the survival of the organism in the environment. This explains why infections are more common in summer and fall and why the infection is more prevalent in temperate areas.

If your pet has become infected, it most likely came into contact with leptospires in the environment or infected animals. Your pet may have been drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water. Pets exposed to wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums or deer that are infected with leptospirosis is another common route for infection. Dogs also may pass the disease to each other, but this happens rarely.

~ What happens once my dog is infected?

Leptospira bacteria penetrate mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth) or abraded skin & will multiply rapidly upon entering the blood system. From there they spread to other tissues including the kidneys and liver. As the body fights the infection, the organism maybe cleared from most tissues, but they may persist in the kidneys and be shed for weeks or months in the urine. The amount of damage done to the organs depends on the serovar and the host it infects.

~ What are signs of leptospirosis in pets?

The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary and are non-specific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms. Common clinical signs reported in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal or muscle pain, diarrhea, anorexia, weakness, depression, stiffness, excessive drinking or jaundice.

~ What should I do if I think my pet has leptospirosis?

Contact your veterinarian immediately. A comprehensive physical exam and bloodwork will be done by your veterinarian at that time. If the clinical signs and bloodwork support the possibility of leptospirosis infection, a more specific test may be done.

~ How will my dog be tested for Leptospirosis?

The most commonly used method of testing is a blood test to detect serovar specific antibodies against leptospirosis. This test is called a Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT). Confirmation of the disease is made by running two separate antibody levels (called titers) 2-3 weeks apart. If there is a four fold increase in the antibody level/titer over that time frame, then a diagnosis is made. It is possible for the first blood test to be negative because it does take the immune system time to develop antibodies, which is why a second test is always recommended. Note: Vaccinations may interfere with testing since vaccinations generate antibodies, but measurable titers are usually short lived. Also, the currently available vaccinations only cover 4 serovars(Canicola, Icterohaemorrhagiae, Pomona and Grippotyphosa)

Acutely infected or chronically infected dogs will most likely be shedding leptospira organisms in their urine. It is possible to culture a urine sample and get a positive diagnosis. However, because of intermittent shedding and bacterial contamination, this is not always the best way to diagnose the disease.

~ Is there a treatment for leptospirosis?

Fortunately, leptospira is sensitive to amoxicillin a readily available antibiotic. After is has been used to stop leptospira reproduction and limit bloodstream infection, tetracycline derivatives are used to clear leptospires from the kidneys.

In most cases, if the animal is treated early, it may recover rapidly and organ damage maybe less severe.

In severely affected patients, intravenous fluids are crucial to support blood flow through the damaged kidneys so that recovery is possible. Many patients will need to be hospitalized for several days for supportive care.

~ What should I do if I have been told by pet has leptospirosis?

Normal daily activities with your pet will not put you at high risk for leptospirosis infection. Types of activities that are considered to be high risk include direct or indirect contact with urine, blood, or tissues of your pet during infection.

If you have had these types of high risk contacts, inform your physician.

~ How can I protect myself when my pet has been infected?

The risk of getting leptospirosis from a dog in standard instances is suspected to be low.

à Do not handle or come into contact with the urine or blood. Wear gloves

if necessary.

à Wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have

your pet's excrement on it.

à If you are cleaning surfaces that maybe contaminated, use an

antimicrobial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.

à Make sure that your pet takes all of its medication & follow up with your veterinarian.

~How can I prevent leptospirosis in my pets?

Keep rodents under control (rats, mice or other animal pests) Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria.

There are currently many different vaccines available; the ones currently available for dogs are inactivated (killed) vaccines. These types of vaccines have been implicated in causing local vaccine reactions. Until the beginning of the year 2000, leptospiral vaccines only protected against L. Canicola and L. Icterohaemorrhagiae. A new vaccine by Fort Dodge now also protects against the serovars L. grippotyphosa and L. Pomona. Due to the low infection rate in cats, there are currently no vaccines available for them.

Leptospiral vaccines for dogs offer about 6-8 months of protection. Dogs that are at high risk of contracting leptospiral infections should be vaccinated twice a year. Initially an animal will get 2 or 3 vaccines spaced several weeks apart. Be sure to follow the recommendations of the vaccine manufacturer and your veterinarian.

Due to the lack of crossprotection between strains, the high incidence of reations and the need for frequent vaccinations, many veterinarians have begun to recommend leptospiral vaccinations only for those dogs at high risk. This can be potentially a very serious disease, discuss with your veterinarian if vaccination for leptospirosis is necessary for your pet.

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