Leptospirosis in your Vail Valley Pets

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Leptospirosis in your Vail Valley Pets

With all the news now being about "Coronavirus" and viruses transmissable diseases between animals and humans, we quickly forget that there is a virus right here in our Vail Valley that can be deadly to our pets, and is transmitted to humans! That disease is called leptospirosis and can easily be prevented thru routine vaccination.

When you take your dog for its annual check-up and vaccine appointment, most people expect their pet to receive the core vaccines necessary to keep their animal healthy. This includes a rabies vaccine and a distemper/parvovirus vaccine. Additionally, many boarding facilities and groomers require the bordetella vaccine, commonly known as “kennel cough, which is a vaccine pets receive based on lifestyle (frequent boarding and grooming). However, there is another important lifestyle vaccine that many people might be more unfamiliar with. This is a vaccine against a disease called Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection that your pets can actually pass to you and your family.

Leptospirosis is a spiral-shaped bacteria that has many different specific types within the genus classification of Leptospira. It can be found throughout the world most commonly in soil and in water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams, and can be transmitted through the urine of infected animals (usually wildlife and rodents, but any infected animal can spread the disease). Cats seem to be less affected by this bacterial disease than dogs, and much less is known about leptospirosis in our feline friends, so a vaccine only exists for dogs at present. Your dog may be at risk for leptospirosis if he or she often drinks out of rivers, lakes, or streams, roams rural areas, or has frequent contact with wildlife, rodents, or farm animals. Any contact of your dog’s mucous membranes or an open wound with the bacteria can cause an infection with this bacteria.

Clinical signs your dog can exhibit if they are infected with leptospirosis vary. Signs can range from no symptoms at all to severe sickness and death. Most commonly, signs such as fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, changes in urination, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and jaundice (yellow skin/mucous membranes) become apparent in infected animals. More severe complications can include liver or kidney failure, bleeding disorders, difficulty breathing, and fluid accumulation in the chest and limbs. Tests that your veterinarian can perform to diagnose this disease include blood panels, urine tests, x-rays, and ultrasound.

Although this can be a very serious disease, if caught early and treated aggressively there is a good chance for recovery--however, the risk of permanent liver or kidney damage still remains. In general, leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics and supportive care, such as hospitalization on IV fluids, and isolation from other animals and people to prevent further spread of the disease. Vaccines that are currently available for leptospirosis last for 12 months and need an annual booster vaccine. If your dog has not had the vaccine before, or it has been over 12 months since previous vaccination, an additional booster vaccine will be needed 3-4 weeks after the initial vaccination. Getting this vaccine every year and reducing your dog’s exposure to areas where he or she might pick up this bacteria are the best ways to prevent this illness.

Leptospirosis causes similar signs and disease in people, so if your pet has been diagnosed with or is suspected to have leptospirosis you can take the following precautions:

Avoid contact with your pet’s urine by wearing gloves and cleaning up any urine immediately, wash your hands after touching your dog, make sure your dog urinates away from standing water, and administer any treatments recommended by your veterinarian. If you become sick or suspect you may have leptospirosis, you should contact your physician as soon as possible. 

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