Leptospirosis

What is Leptospirosis?

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (lepto for short) is a serious bacterial disease of dogs, multiple animal species, and humans that occurs in countries around the world. In recent years, leptospirosis has become an increasing concern of pet owners and veterinarians in the United States, especially in cities and suburbs. The primary reason is growing populations of wildlife, like raccoons and skunks, which carry disease and infect dogs indirectly. Dogs can get sick even if they never come into direct contact with infected animals.
Lepto has been diagnosed in all types of dogs. All breeds and sizes of dogs are at risk. Lepto can be a very serious disease and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. It generally attacks a dog's liver and kidneys and can lead to organ damage or failure. However, if lepto is caught early, it responds well to antibiotics. Preventative measures, such as vaccinations, are available to pet owners as well.

A bacterial disease

Leptospirosis is caused by the bacterium L. interrogans, part of a group of corkscrew-shaped bacteria called spirochetes.
Leptospira spirochetes are further divided into multiple "subfamilies" called serovars or strains. Around the world, there are more than 200 serovars of lepto. Although there are many serovars, only a few are known to cause disease in dogs. Newer vaccines contain four serovars for protection against today's most common serovars.
Lepto serovars are maintained in nature by "reservoir hosts" that have subclinical infections and shed the organisms for long periods of time. Dogs can be reservoire hosts for the serovar L. canicola. Many academics consider L. canicola the least frequently isolated serovar in dogs. Dogs are "incidental hosts" and generally develop more severe clinical disease for L. grippotyphosa, L. pomona, and L. icterohaemorrhagiae.

Prevalent Serovars

  

L. grippotyphosa

Currently most common and increasing; leading infectious cause of acute renal failure in dogs

L. pomona

Currently common and increasing; leading infectious cause of acute renal failure in dogs

L. icterohaemorrhagiae

Traditionally common and decreasing, possibly due to widespread vaccination containing this serovar; can cause severe liver disease and jaundice

L. canicola

Traditionally common and decreasing, possibly due to widespread vaccination containing this serovar; can cause severe liver disease and jaundice

Reservoir Hosts

 

Raccoon, skunk, opossum, small rodents, and squirrels

Skunk, raccoon, opossum, cow, pig, and deer

Rat and pig

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TAKE OUR RISK TEST


Lepto carriers can reside in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Take our risk assessment to see your dog's risk level.

THE BEST PREVENTION


Lepto is largely vaccine preventable. Most vaccines have 4 serovars to fight against today's most common serovars.

CASE STUDIES


Read about real pets that were diagnosed with leptospirosis.