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Dogs at Increased Risk for Leptospirosis: Vaccination Prevents Deadly Bacterial Infection

Leptospirosis is a deadly bacterial infection increasingly affecting many domestic pets in Maryland. Dogs typically encounter leptospira bacteria when swimming in or drinking contaminated water near ponds, marshes or wooded areas. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread from canines to humans, including young children who are in close contact with their pets. Without prompt treatment, Leptospirosis can cause serious health problems, including death. In order to prevent this deadly bacterial infection, our Solomons team of veterinarians strongly recommends vaccinating dogs against Leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis Vaccination Essential to Canine Health

Leptospirosis infections primarily occur in marshy or muddy areas with stagnant surface water.  Raccoons, opossums, rodents can be infected and shed the bacteria in their urine.  Hunting and sporting dogs are at greatest risk for this bacterial infection, although any canines that live or play near water, farms or wooded areas are susceptible to infection because of their exposure to wildlife.  Dogs that spend time in boarding kennels are also at elevated risk for infection.

Leptospirosis infections occur when the spiral-shaped bacteria penetrate the skin and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream. Once a pet is infected, these bacteria can reproduce in the pet’s kidneys, liver, central nervous system, reproductive system and eyes. Depending on the strength of your pet’s immune system, your pet may be able to partially fight off this infection. However, without pre-existing immunization protection, fighting off the bacterial infection in the kidneys and liver can be difficult. If the infection progresses in these organs, it can be fatal.

Young children who are in close contact with the family pet – and also have weaker immune systems than adults – are at greatest risk for this infection. This is why vaccinating pets against Leptospirosis is critical not only to your pet’s health, but the health of your entire family. Any fluid leaving your pet’s body, including urine or vomit, could carry and transmit the infection to human family members.

Leptospirosis symptoms include: sudden fever and illness; sore or stiff muscles; shivering; lack of appetite; increased thirst and urination; vomiting and diarrhea; yellowing of skin or whites of the eye; difficulty breathing and irregular pulse; and swollen mucous membranes. Contact our veterinarian if your pet exhibits these symptoms; early detection improves treatment options and can help prevent the spread of this infection to other pets or family members. If our veterinarian suspects that your pet has Leptospirosis, we will perform diagnostic tests, including a chemical blood profile and blood count to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on severity, your pet may need to be hospitalized or even receive blood transfusions; antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection.

Is your pet protected against Leptospirosis? If your pet has not been vaccinated or you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, contact our veterinary hospital to schedule an appointment. Taking action today can help prevent serious infection, expensive emergency vet care, and possible death.

Call us at (410) 326-4300.