Is your dog at risk from Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease that affects both humans and dogs. Wildlife and pets spread this infection through their urine, where it can live in water and soil for weeks to months! (In fact, once infected and untreated, they can spread it for several years! Yikes!) The most concerning part about this infection is that once it enters the bloodstream it can cause widespread inflammation throughout your pup’s body, it settles in the liver and kidneys where it causes severe pain and organ failure. The good news is that it is treatable with antibiotics, but that’s if you catch it before the infection becomes widespread. (And there’s more good news later on!)

But with any good news there is bad news. Beginning symptoms of Leptospirosis are vague; lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and stiffness/pain. Some dogs may even appear to recover after the initial bout of illness without any veterinary intervention, meaning pet parents like you and I might not consider taking them into their veterinarian! However, without appropriate treatment, your pup will still be infected with the bacteria and they may develop more severe symptoms of the disease. Golden Retriever Dory Sitting at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis

Photo Description: Golden Retriever, Dory, sitting in front of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge and Grainbelt Sign by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, MN.

“Ok but I live in the city, is there really that big of a risk?”

Great question, YES!!!!  Leptospirosis tends to thrive in warm and moist environments. While Hennepin County is not particularly tropical, we experience warm summers and receive a moderate amount of precipitation, creating suitable conditions for the bacteria. Leptospira bacteria can survive for extended periods in water, especially stagnant or slow-moving bodies. With our numerous Minnesota lakes, rivers, and ponds, there are plenty of opportunities for exposure.

Here in the North Loop, despite being urbanized, we still have areas with ample green space, therefore wildlife habitats, where pesky rodents can thrive. Every time we adventure out to enjoy the beautiful Minneapolis scenery, we run the risk of stumbling upon Leptospirosis. Pet Disease Alerts, a charity foundation that tracks pet illness prevalence based on data from veterinary clinics, shows that as of February 2024, Hennepin County has had positive cases of Leptospirosis. Here’s the link to their tracking page: Pet Disease Alerts for Hennepin County.

Photo Description: A red Chow Chow mix named Beau, who wears a black First Avenue bandna, sits on the Hennepin Avenue bridge in Minneapolis, MN.

“Well I won’t let them drink puddle water, simple as that!”

More bad news for you. The bacteria can enter the body through skin and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. So while drinking contaminated water can also cause infection, it’s not the only way your best friend can get sick. We all know our dogs deserve some good sniff time on our daily walks so it’s important to know that there are risks from sticking our noses in a pile of leaves by the Mississippi river! Two Golden retrievers on leash with their human by St Anthony Falls in Downtown Minneapolis, MN. One of the dogs smiles towards the camera.

Photo Description: Two Golden Retrievers on leash with their human companion while on a walk by the St Anthony Falls in Downtown Minneapolis, MN. One dog is standing still, smiling at the camera and the other is midstep, walking away from the camera.

I have good news for you!! (Yes, I’m not always Debbie Downer.)

We have a canine vaccine for Leptospirosis! The vaccine is effective in reducing the risk of infection and severity of the disease caused by certain strains of the Leptospira bacteria. Additionally, most vaccines prevent against the strains that most commonly affect dogs, including Leptospira canicola and Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae, among others. Newer vaccines have been documented to dramatically reduce or prevent urinary shedding of the bacteria from exposed dogs, which means the vaccine is protecting your dog and those around you in the community!

The American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA, updated their Canine Vaccination Guidelines to include the Leptospirosis vaccine for social dogs, and strongly encouraging it for all dogs, even those that aren’t in social situations. Talk to your vet to discuss how you can keep your pup safe and reduce the risk from Leptospirosis!

Here at Metro Dogs, vaccinating your dog for Leptospirosis is key to keeping all dogs safe! In addition to vaccination, we follow stringent cleaning and disinfecting procedures to keep our environment free of infectious disease! The product we use here at Metro Dogs, Rescue by Virox, is effective against Leptosira bacteria and many other contagious illnesses. It’s also Fear Fear approved and super safe for pups and humans! Our team is certified through Heroes for Healthy Pets®, which was created to help veterinary and pet business professionals keep their facility disease-free.

Written by Taylor Iverson, B.S in Animal Science and Fear Free Certified Daycare and Boarding Professional, General Manager of Metro Dogs.

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