Deadly Bacteria – Protect Your Pets from Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis (also referred to as Lepto) is a bacteria that dogs and other pets can come into contact with by walking or swimming through infected soil or water, or by drinking contaminated water. The bacteria can be present worldwide in soil and water. But is more common in the Midwest, Eastern, and Southwestern states. It can be present any time of year, but more cases are reported during the summer and the fall and after heavy rainfalls. While humans can get the disease from an infected pet, most cases of human Lepto result from recreational activities involving water.

How Do Pets Get Leptospirosis?

According to the CDC, The bacteria spreads through the urine of infected animals. It can get into water or soil from the urine and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected if they come into contact with these bacteria in water or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through the skin, primarily through a cut or scratch. It can also enter through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals can continue to spread the environment continuously or every once in a while, for a few months up to several years. Some domestic animals that can get this bacterial disease are cattle, pigs, goats, horses, and dogs. However, it is rare in cats.

Symptoms of this Bacterial Disease in Pets

Signs of this bacterial infection vary and are nonspecific. Sometimes pets do not have any symptoms. Here are the common signs in dogs:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat.
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Inability to have puppies.

The time between exposure to the bacteria and the development of disease is usually 5 to 14 days. However, it can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days. or more. The disease causes severe damage to the kidney and liver and may be fatal in critical cases.

If you think your pet may have Lepto, contact us immediately. Your veterinarian can perform tests to determine whether your pet has the disease.

Treatment for the Bacteria in Pets

Lepto is treatable with antibiotics. If an animal is treated early, it may recover more rapidly, and any organ damage may be less severe. Other treatment methods, such as dialysis and hydration therapy may be required. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good. However, there is still a risk of permanent kidney or liver damage.

How You Can Prevent This Bacterial Disease

There are actions you can take to protect you and your pet from getting Lepto. 

  • Keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease. For more information about rodent control, see: Prevent rodent infestations.
  • Avoid areas of water and moisture which are exposed to feral animals, especially swine and rodents. 
  • Get your pet vaccinated against Lepto. It can help protect your pet from the disease. Be aware that there are many strains of the bacteria. For this reason, the vaccine cannot provide 100% protection because it does not provide immunity against all strains. Please visit our website for information on our adult canine core shots and our puppy recommended shots
  • If your pet gets Lepto, get your pet vaccinated again because it can still get infected with a different strain of Lepto.
  • Do not handle or come in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from your infected pet before it has received proper treatment.
  • Wear gloves and protective clothing if you need to contact animal tissues or urine that may be affected. 
  • Always wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have your pet’s poop on it.
  • To clean surfaces that may be contaminated or have urine from an infected pet on them, use an antibacterial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts water.
  • Make sure that your infected pet takes all its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian.

Final Words

Summer is a great time for outdoor activities. But unfortunately, it is also a time we see an increase in pets with Lepto. So, take caution by getting your dog vaccinated against the disease. Then follow the precautions above to protect you and your pet from coming into contact with the bacteria. From all of us here at Advanced Pet Care Clinic, have a great summer and keep you and your pets stay safe!


Dr. Tammy Stevenson
Advanced Pet Care Clinic
Cedar Falls, Iowa