What you need to know about leptospirosis if you are dog owners

Credit: Unsplash+.

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection that affects dogs and can be fatal, leading to severe kidney damage and even death.

Emmanuelle Butty, a veterinary specialist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, highlights the critical nature of this disease and the straightforward solution available: vaccination.

Dogs typically contract leptospirosis by coming into contact with contaminated water, soil, or through contact with infected wildlife.

The bacteria thrive in wet environments and can enter a dog’s body through open wounds or by drinking infected water.

Humans can also catch the disease from their pets, making it a zoonotic concern.

Infected dogs often appear lethargic, may vomit, lose their appetite, and show increased thirst. Some may develop jaundice, indicated by yellowing eyes and skin.

Because these symptoms are quite general, it’s crucial to visit a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis if your dog is unwell.

While many dogs recover with antibiotics, others may develop severe complications affecting their kidneys and liver.

For dogs with kidney failure, dialysis can be a lifesaver, though it’s expensive and not always successful.

According to a study led by Butty, dialysis has helped save around 75% of affected dogs treated at their facility. However, surviving dogs might still face long-term health issues like chronic kidney disease, which can significantly shorten their lifespan.

The best way to protect dogs from leptospirosis is through vaccination.

An effective vaccine has been available for over 20 years and is crucial for preventing infection and its severe outcomes.

Puppies can start their vaccinations as early as 12 weeks old with a two-shot series, followed by annual boosters. Keeping up with these vaccinations is vital, as even a slight delay can necessitate starting the series over.

Butty emphasizes the importance of timely vaccination, “If the booster is not on time, they are not considered vaccinated anymore and have to be restarted with the first two doses.”

Despite the vaccine’s effectiveness, many dogs remain unvaccinated, a trend Butty hopes to reverse. Side effects from the vaccine are usually mild and short-lived, making them far preferable to the potential need for dialysis or the risk of death.

For dog owners, understanding the risks of leptospirosis and the benefits of vaccination can make a significant difference in the health and well-being of their pets. Considering pet insurance might also be wise, given the potential costs of treatment.

As Butty puts it, the choice is clear: vaccination is a simple but powerful way to keep your furry friends safe.

The study was published in the Journal of Veterinary.