Leptospirosis is a bacterium that can cause intense illness in dogs, cats and humans. There are eight different strains of leptospirosis. Your dog can be protected from two of the strains when he/she receives the standard DHLPP vaccine. Dog leptospirosis is transmitted through urine, bites or infected tissues. It can cause fever, chills, lethargy and muscle tenderness, followed by intense vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases death. In North America, dog leptospirosis is especially infectious in humid areas between July and November.
Dog Leptospirosis Symptoms
Dog leptospirosis symptoms vary depending on the strain and severity of the bacteria. Some dogs might show no leptospirosis symptoms while others might experience fever, chills, lethargy and muscle tenderness, followed by intense vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally death. Even when dogs recover from leptospirosis, they still often develop kidney or liver problems. Dogs at this stage might appear reluctant to move due to pain in their kidneys or their eyes may look yellowish due to jaundice. After a few weeks, both problems might begin to fade, but it is just as likely that they might grow worse, leading to kidney failure. Again, it depends on the strain and severity of the bacteria.
Dog Leptospirosis Diagnosis
Blood tests and urine cultures are the two methods for diagnosing dog leptospirosis. While blood tests can identify the specific strain of the bacteria, they are not always accurate until ten days after onset of the infection. Urine cultures, meanwhile, are usually accurate right away, but some dogs do not always pass the bacteria in their urine, leading to the possibility of a false negative. A combination of both tests provides an accurate diagnosis in most cases.
Dog Leptospirosis Treatment
Since leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium, penicillin or a related antibiotic is usually an effective treatment. If vomiting and diarrhea are also present, your veterinarian will likely use an anti-emetic to help reduce vomiting and an IV or injection to replenish fluids. Additional antibiotics will likely be prescribed even after the infection is passed so as to keep it from returning.
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