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Canine Leptospirosis

Lepto is a bacterial infection.

Leptospirosis, commonly called lepto, is a bacterial infection that can affect dogs, humans, and other mammals. Many strains of Leptospira bacteria can infect dogs.

Lepto can cause liver and kidney damage, and depending on the severity of the illness, permanent dysfunction of those organs could occur.

What Are the Signs of Lepto in Dogs?

Dogs that become infected with Leptospira bacteria may not show any signs of illness. Sometimes, the infection can be cleared by the body without causing disease. However, dogs that do become ill may show some of the following signs:

  • Fever
  • Trembling
  • Lameness caused by muscle or joint pain
  • Hiding or difficulty or reluctance to move
  • Decreased or absent appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and mucous membranes)
  • Swollen legs

How Do Dogs Become Infected with Lepto?

Dogs are infected with Lepto bacteria when they ingest it or encounter it via their mucous membranes. Infected wildlife, rodents, other dogs, or livestock have the bacteria present in the urine, and it washes into bodies of water. Dogs that drink from puddles or swim in lakes, rivers, or streams can be exposed to the bacteria there.

Diagnosis of Leptospirosis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will first perform a thorough physical exam and ask you many questions about the course of your dog's illness. If the doctor suspects leptospirosis infection at that point, some testing will be done to look for coinciding lab results. Those tests might include:

  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • Blood tests

Treatment of Canine Leptospirosis

Once lepto is confirmed, your veterinarian will put together a treatment plan. Hospitalization for intravenous fluids and medication might be required if your dog is extremely ill. Medication can be given at home if the dog is not dehydrated and is keeping down food and water. Antibiotics and other supportive care are used to treat lepto in dogs.

Prevention of Leptospirosis in Dogs

There is a vaccination that protects dogs against several common strains of lepto. Dogs need to be vaccinated yearly against leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is Zoonotic

Lepto can be transmitted from pets to humans. While this is a rare occurrence, it can and does happen. If your dog is diagnosed with lepto, be sure to take precautions to protect yourself and your family, including:

  • Give all medications and treatments to your dog as directed by your vet.
  • Avoid contact with your dog's urine.
  • If your dog urinates inside, thoroughly clean the area while wearing gloves.
  • If your dog urinates outside, try to dilute it with extra water poured on top.
  • Try not to let your dog urinate near standing water or in areas where other people or dogs might be exposed to the bacteria.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your dog.
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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.