Education / Blog / Leptospirosis



What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Leptospira. There are many different types of Leptospira which can affect both people and animals.

How do people and pets get leptospirosis?
Wild and domestic animals infected with Leptospira shed the bacteria in their urine. Leptospirosis is zoonotic so when people or pets have contact with urine-contaminated water, soil, plants or tissues, Leptospira bacteria can enter through broken skin or the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes). 

Who is at greatest risk of getting leptospirosis?
People and pets who have direct contact with possibly contaminated water are at greatest risk. The risk increases during natural disasters when normal sewage treatment and municipal water supplies are compromised.

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?
The symptoms of leptospirosis can vary widely. Most infected people and dogs have no symptoms or a very mild illness consisting of fever, headache, chills, red eyes, and sore muscles for a few days. However, in a few cases, leptospirosis can persist and affect the kidneys, liver, lungs, eyes, heart, and brain. The time between exposure to the bacteria and becoming sick can range from two days to four weeks.

How is leptospirosis infection diagnosed?
Leptospirosis can be diagnosed with blood or urine tests.

How is leptospirosis treated?
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin. These should be given early in the disease. Intravenous antibiotics may be needed for more severe symptoms.

How can infection be prevented?
The chances of getting leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by avoiding swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine. People whose job or recreational activities expose them to contaminated water or soil should wear protective clothing or footwear. Because rodents are common carriers of Leptospira, discouraging rodents from around homes and buildings is important. 

When should companion animals receive a leptospirosis vaccine?
If your veterinarian recommends a leptospirosis vaccination, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends the following schedule:

  • For pups, the initial vaccine is administered at 12 weeks old and repeated two to four weeks later.
  • For older puppies (over four months old) or adults receiving the leptospirosis vaccine for the first time, two doses two to four weeks apart are recommended.
  • Annual revaccination is recommended for dogs at sustained risk of exposure to the leptospirosis disease-causing organism.
  • Dogs at exceptionally high risk should be vaccinated every six to nine months throughout the period of their continued high risk of exposure

source: State of California - Health and Human Services Agency - California Department of Public Health Division of Communicable Disease Control
Posted Wednesday, August 05, 2015