Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Protect Yourself and Your Pets From Leptospirosis

A client handout about "Leptospirosis" written by Dr. Staunton.

Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center
7278 N. Milwaukee Ave. Niles, IL 60714   
(847)-647-9325 Fax (847)-647-8498

Over the last 10 years, cases of canine leptospirosis have been increasingly reported across the United States. It is particularly a problem in suburban areas where dogs of all sizes and ages are becoming in ever-closer contact with wildlife. Even more disturbing is the fact that human cases of leptospirosis contracted from dogs and other species including raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, deer, coyotes, mice and rats, are on the rise. Leptospirosis is considered to be one of the most common zoonotic diseases (diseases people can contract from animals) worldwide.

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. Dogs and people can get 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 mucus membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking, swimming, or walking through contaminated water increases the risk of becoming infected with the bacteria. Wherever dogs and wildlife cross paths, from the dog park to your own backyard, exposure to leptospirosis is an ever-increasing risk.

Common non-specific clinical signs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, weakness and depression, stiffness, excessive drinking, jaundice, and excessive bleeding. Kidney failure affects 90% of dogs with leptospirosis, with 10-20% also suffering from liver failure.

To help prevent leptospirosis infection, minimize exposure to wildlife and their environment wherever possible.

Get your pet vaccinated against leptospirosis. The vaccine does not provide 100% protection against all strains of the bacteria but does provide immunity to the more common ones.

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