News // 20.5.21

Leptospirosis in Dogs on Sydney’s Northern Beaches

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira. The disease causes serious damage to the kidney and liver, and may be fatal in severe cases. Bacteria are passed in the urine of infected animals and can survive in the environment for long periods of time in warm, stagnant water or moist soil. Leptospira is excreted in urine from infected animals including mice, rats and dogs.

What causes Leptospirosis in dogs and how is it spread?

  • Infections are usually associated with exposure to water, soil or mud contaminated with the urine from infected animals.
  • Many different animals can harbour Leptospirosis bacteria in their kidneys.
  • Leptospirosis bacteria usually enter the body through skin cuts or abrasions, and occasionally through the lining of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water has occasionally been responsible for transmission.

What are Leptospirosis symptoms in dogs?

Dogs severely infected with leptospirosis show signs of lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. Dogs may develop jaundice, which means the lining of the mouth and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. In some cases there may be bleeding. Illness typically develops quickly, sometimes in just a few days, and can be rapidly fatal.

How long is a dog with leptospirosis contagious?

It can take a couple of months of intensive treatment before a dog with Leptospirosis is no longer contagious. It’s not just dogs who are at risk. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning you can catch it from your dog. Because there are many different strains of Leptospira bacteria, it is possible for someone to be infected with another strain and develop leptospirosis again.

Can my dog die from Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis can kill dogs within 48 hours. After infection, bacteria multiply in the bloodstream and then move into the tissues. They concentrate in the liver and kidney, causing extensive damage to these organs.

Can dogs recover from leptospirosis?

Yes dogs can recover from Leptospirosis. This requires intensive hospitalisation and treatment with a specialist vet. Unfortunately all the dogs treated recently in the Sydney area for Leptospirosis have all died from acute kidney failure.

Can people catch Leptospirosis from dogs?

Yes. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread from animals to people. Pet owners and veterinary staff should be careful when caring for an infected dog. Precautions such as face masks, gloves, and regular hand washing are recommended to avoid getting infected urine in the eyes, nose, or mouth, or on broken skin. Careful disposal of soiled bedding is recommended, as well as thorough disinfection of contaminated areas.

Any person feeling unwell after exposure to an infected dog should seek medical attention.

Should I vaccinate my dog against Leptospirosis?

Yes, we are recommending that all dogs on Sydney's Northern Beaches be vaccinated for leptospirosisPatients are required to have two vaccinations, spaced 2-4 weeks apart and then annually. Appointments are necessary.

If your dog has already had their Annual Health Check at Allambie Vet, (health check with one of our vet's within 12 months) appointments can be booked with our Registered Vet Nurses. This will be at a reduced fee.

If your dog is due for their Annual Health Check, unwell or if you have any other concerns you would like to discuss (skin, ears or lumps) please book an appointment with one of our experienced veterinarians.

Appointments can be made with a Veterinarian via our website or please call reception on 9905 0505.

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