Leptospirosis (LEP-toe-sp-ROW-sis) is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of infected animals.  Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be passed from animals to humans.  With Spring finally here, Leptospirosis is once again a concern as more people will be out with their pets, especially dogs.

From the CDC:

The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.

Making sure your pets are currently vaccinated is a big step in preventing this disease.  Vaccinations are not 100% effective due to the different strains of the bacteria that is circulating but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Lepto is not always included in annual vaccines.  Please check with your vet to see if your dog is currently vaccinated.


Animals that carry Leptospirosis include rats, mice, moles, dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, pigs, goats, raccoons, opossums, skunks and much less frequently, cats.  A large number of mammals carry the bacteria.  Leptospirosis affects many internal organs, however the prime targets are the liver and kidneys.  Without diagnosis and treatment, Leptospirosis can result in death.  The incubation period is 4-12 days from exposure and symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy/Depression
  • Fever
  • Kidney Failure
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Refusal to eat
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Inability to have puppies

According to the CDC, younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals.

From LeptoInfo.com, managed by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., a recently published retrospective study showed that just over 18% of dogs admitted to a university with renal pathology had undiagnosed Leptospirosis. If the disease is not treated, some dogs become very ill and can even die. Lepto kills up to 1 in 5 clinically infected dogs. Even if the dog recovers, long-term consequences can include reduced kidney or liver function.


Before you hit the lakes and trails with your dog, do yourself a favor and make sure your dog is up to date on important annual vaccines, including Leptospirosis.

For more information about Leptospirosis, contact your veterinarian, or these websites:



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