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What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal bacterial disease that can infect wild animals, domestic animals and humans.  The number of cases of Leptospirosis has been increasing in the United States.  In the past, it was seen primarily in the larger working dog breeds. A recent study showed that Leptospirosis is now diagnosed more often in small dogs that only go out into their backyards than in the larger breeds. This is likely due to an increase of risk factors in metropolitan and suburban regions.  Risk factors for exposure include areas with high ambient temperatures, increased precipitation, outdoor water source exposure, and the presence of wildlife such as rats, raccoons, and opossums.

How do dogs get Leptospirosis?
Dogs become infected when their mouths, or abraded skin, or a wound comes in contact with contaminated soil, water, food or other surfaces that may have been urinated on by wildlife.  The incubation of the disease can range from a few days to a few months, but averages seven days.  The organism spreads throughout the body’s organs including the liver and kidneys.  It can cause numerous symptoms including organ failure and bleeding disorders.  

Can I get Leptospirosis from my dog?
If the infected dog lives long enough, the leptospirosis organism enters the bladder through the kidneys and is shed in the urine.  Pet owners can then be exposed to the contaminated urine and become infected themselves.

How can I protect my dog from Leptospirosis?
Vaccination is key to preventing the disease in dogs and reducing the risk to humans.   In the past, Birdneck Animal Hospital has included the leptospirosis vaccine in the canine distemper vaccine.  We will now be giving the leptospirosis vaccine separately and protecting against more types of leptospirosis.  This will allow us to give the “Distemper – Parvo” vaccine every three years instead of each year.  The leptospirosis vaccine requires a booster at least annually.  Dogs with very high potential exposure should be boostered every six months.  Dogs receiving the leptospirosis vaccine for the first time will require a booster three to four weeks later.

Virginia Beach Veterinarian | Birdneck Animal Hospital
508 North Birdneck Rd Suite C
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Phone: (757) 355-5694