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Leptospirosis

It's scary to think that a fun stroll through the woods or swim in a favorite watering hole can lead to a terrible illness, but it can for you as well as your dog. If this is a hobby that you and your pet enjoy, listen up! 

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a serious, life threatening  bacterial disease that can be found in most animals, including livestock (cattle, pigs and sheep) and wildlife (deer, raccoons, opossums, skunks, rats, and other rodents). Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria spread through soil, water, and the urine of infected animals, and if not caught early it can be deadly.There is a vaccine available for the most common subtypes of the bacteria that infect dogs. Ask our staff if the leptospirosis vaccine is right for your dog.

Is this a problem where I live?

Bacteria can be present in any stagnant surface water, moist soil and recreational water sources like ponds and lakes.

How can my dog get infected?

  • Drinking, swimming, or walking in contaminated water
  • Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through a cut in the skin or mucous membranes

Can people get Leptospirosis?

Yes, Leptospirosis can cause severe illness in people People infected with Leptospirosis show the same symptoms as pets: fever, joint pain, excessive drinking, and general malaise.. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 200 human cases of leptospirosis are confirmed a year in the U.S. 

Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis:

There are three main forms of the disease: 

  1. Hemorrhagic (bleeding)
  2. Icteric or jaundice (liver)
  3. Renal (kidney)
  • Fever - (hemorrhagic disease
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice - yellow gums, yellow whites of the eyes
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • excessive drinking (polydipsia)
  • excessive urination (polyuria)
  • Blood tinge urine

In severe cases, liver failure and kidney failure may be fatal.

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

Because the clinical signs are variable and easily confused with other diseases, definite diagnosis can be difficult. There are no readily available rapid and definitive laboratory tests. Taking blood samples during infection and again in the recovery period and showing an increase in antibodies to Leptospira in the blood serum (at least a four-fold increase in antibody titer) is supportive of the diagnosis. A single test finding of Leptospira antibody, even if the blood level (titer) is high, may not mean that the dog has Leptospirosis because infection with less harmful serovars can still result in high antibody.

What is the treatment?

Antibiotics are reasonably effective if begun early. Most affected dogs require intensive care in the veterinary hospital. An extended course of antibiotics may be prescribed even in the recovery period to ensure that all the Leptospira organisms are cleared and the dog does not become a chronic carrier.

How can leptospirosis be prevented?

  • Protection = Prevention. Vaccinate!!!!! Vaccinate your dog and livestock. The vaccine for leptospirosis is not always part of the routine vaccination program for all dogs. It is affordable, convenient and safe. Save yourself the trauma of this disease by incorporating this into your dog's routine vaccination program. Your veterinarian will consider the risks and options for your pet. Annual boosters may be needed to maintain best immunity. 
  • Avoid water that might be contaminated with the bacteria, especially stagnant water
  • Practice good sanitation, washing hands, wear protective clothing. 


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They are great! They fit me in for an emergency appointment same day and are very professional in manner. Dr Rutledge was so gentle with our furbaby pitbull Kilo and the service was phenomenal. Within 20 minutes of blood being drawn we found out he had Lyme. The pricing was very reasonable. I highly recommend taking your pets to this vet. I'm beyond pleased and relieved. Thank you Cherry Ridge Vet.

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Honesdale, PA

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