Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that infects and damages the liver and kidneys. It leads to organ failure and usually death.
Rodents and wild animals carry this disease in their urine, which passes into soil or water, where it can survive for weeks.
Your dog can get leptospirosis through direct contact with the bacteria. Either symptom will show within a week, or the dog will only become a carrier and not show any symptoms.
Animals can spread leptospirosis to humans, causing flu-like symptoms and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. If you think you may have been exposed, contact your physician.
- Excessive drinking, urination
- Loss of appetite, weight loss
- Vomiting, bloody diarrhea
- Jaundice (yellow skin, mouth, and white of the eyes)
- Bad breath
- Bleeding from the nose
If you notice any of the above symptoms, go to your veterinarian immediately because leptospirosis can lead to kidney failure and death.
To diagnose your dog, your veterinarian may perform the following:
- Blood tests: CBC, chemistry panel, and a test to check for antibodies of this bacteria
- Urine tests
- Kidney or liver biopsies
Most veterinarians will take the following course of action for your dog:
- Hospital stay
- IV fluid therapy
- Oral antibiotics (for home use)
Make sure to give your dog the entire course of medication and follow up with your veterinarian.
- Vaccine: not always given with the regular vaccination schedule because there are some risks; discuss with your veterinarian
- Rodents control: they are the primary carrier of the bacteria
- Environment exposure: restrict your dog from areas where the bacteria live, such as ponds and muddy areas
- Avoid direct contact with the urine of an infected dog
- Disinfect areas where the dog urinated
- Wear gloves when cleaning up areas the dog soiled
Around a quarter of infected dogs will not survive the initial infection. Dogs that do survive will develop chronic renal failure and remain carriers of the disease with the potential to spread it.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM