Leptospirosis in your Vail Valley pet

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Leptospirosis in your Vail Valley pet

As your Vail Valley Veterinarian, I understand how important it is to get outside with your pets – whether it’s the summer or the winter, it’s part of our lifestyle as pet owners in this beautiful place!  Since we live in a place with a significant amount of wildlife right in our backyards, it is important to remember to protect your pet from diseases that they can catch from wildlife.  One of the significant things that dogs can pick up is a bacteria called Leptospirosis.  Let’s go over what this is and how to prevent your dog from picking it up!

Leptospirosis is a spiral shaped bacteria that is present in our soil and streams.  Just about every dog is at risk of being exposed to leptospirosis, regardless of their lifestyle or where they live.  It is commonly spread in wildlife urine – the way in which a dog comes in contact with this is via mucous membranes, a break in their skin (open cut or sore), by eating an infected carcass or via a bite by an infected animal. 

Signs of leptospirosis are variable.  Some dogs can pick it up and never show you signs of being infected.  Other times, a dog can have a mild and transient illness and recover spontaneously; and others develop severe, life-threatening illness.  For those dogs that become ill, there are a wide variety of clinical signs – lethargy, fever, muscle tenderness, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, jaundice and painful/inflamed eyes.  The scary part of a significant leptospirosis infection is that it can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure and possibly death. 

Another scary thing about leptospirosis is that people can be infected – yes you heard me, YOU can be infected either from your dog or from the environment.  It’s called a zoonotic disease which means that your pet can pass it to you and you can pass it to your pet if you become infected.  In the United States, most cases of human leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water. Infection resulting from contact with an infected pet is much less common, but it is possible.  Why take the risk?

How do we prevent leptospirosis infection in our dogs?  Yearly vaccination!  Contrary to some beliefs, these vaccines are no more likely to cause adverse reactions than are the other commonly administered vaccines.  Other lifestyle things to consider when trying to lower your pet’s risk of exposure include not allowing them to drink or swim in standing water or streams and not allowing them to come in contact with wildlife (dead or alive). 

Contact your veterinarian to chat about whether or not they recommend a leptospirosis for your dog – our jobs are to do everything we can to keep you and your pet healthy and happy and we take pride in doing it!

We look forward to seeing you!