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You need to know about "Lepto"

By Seneca Guillen |

Leptospirosis is something that you might not be too familiar with, but that you should know about, since it can seriously harm your dog, and even cause you to become very ill, as well! It’s a bacterial blood infection that you or your dog can get when camping, hiking, trips to the park, or even in your own yard! Infection with Leptospirosis can be severe, often causing multiple-organ failure, and even death. While antibiotic treatment is available, the best way to prevent against Leptospirosis, is by vaccinating your dog.

Brown, K. et al. CMAJ 2008;178:399-401


Leptospirosis is a blood infection caused by the bacteria in the genus Leptospira. Leptospires (spiral-shaped bacterial spirochetes), survive best in warm water sources and can also contaminate soil for week to months. Wildlife are common carriers, but almost all mammals, including humans, can become infected. The clinical symptoms of Leptospirosis can vary greatly. Often times, infected patients can actually be asymptomatic. Some of the more common symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever

  • Vomiting & Diarrhea

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Musculoskeletal Pain

Multiple organ-failure, and even death, can also be possible outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), younger patients are typically more seriously affected than older patients.

Infection of the Canine Companion

Dogs most often become infected when they have direct contact with a contaminated water source, such as drinking from a lake or stream where infected wildlife have urinated. They may also become infected by simply eating grass or foliage contaminated with infected urine, or if broken skin comes into contact with the infected urine or contaminated water. Initially after contracting Leptospirosis, the Leptospires are present in the blood stream, and therefore can be transmissible via contact with the blood. After a period of about two weeks, the Leptospires move to the kidneys, and are subsequently shed via urination.


Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotic therapy, specifically doxycycline. Amoxicillin is also an option if doxycycline is not well tolerated. Treatment for at least two weeks is typically indicated. In addition, intravenous (IV) fluid therapy is used in conjunction with antibiotic therapy, to help flush the kidneys.

Prevention is Key

Fortunately, a very safe and effective form of prevention against Leptospirosis exists, and that’s vaccination. Any small animal general practice should carry the vaccine, which is typically given to puppies around 12 weeks of age. A booster vaccination is then administered three to four weeks after the initial dose. After the booster vaccine is administered, yearly vaccination of our canine companions is the single best way to prevent against the disease. Vaccination will reduce the severity of the disease and lead to a more favorable outcome for the patient.

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