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CARES Urges Pet Owners to be Aware of an Increase in Leptospirosis Cases


Veterinarians at CARES are seeing an increase in dogs diagnosed with Leptospirosis this fall. Leptospirosis is a disease that is spread when bacteria in the urine of infected rodents, other wild animals (opossums, skunks, raccoons) and farm animals enters a dog’s body through their mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and even through cuts on their skin.

Dr. Jennifer Adler, board certified veterinary internal medicine specialist at CARES in Langhorne says, “We see cases of leptospirosis especially after rainy weather, and we have seen a large number of cases this fall, more than prior years. The bacteria can be in a puddle, or a pond, and can even be on the grass in your own backyard and your dog is then exposed. This can lead to serious illness in some pets.”

The signs and symptoms of leptospirosis can vary greatly from dog to dog. Some pets show no symptoms at all. Others may have moderate symptoms of generally not feeling well, or not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, drinking and urinating more than normal and dehydration. Yet others could go into full kidney and liver failure. “It’s more common than people probably realize,” says Dr. Adler. “But, it can be catastrophic with how ill they can become.”

Some dogs are more at risk than others such as pets who live on
 a farm or roam on rural properties, or those that play in ponds or lakes. “But, we have seen dogs from the city with leptospirosis, that are simply walking the sidewalk,” adds Dr. Adler. Cats do not develop the disease and are not considered at risk.

And, while we can’t live in a bubble and want to get outside and enjoy nature, there are ways to help prevent leptospirosis 
in your dog. First, “keep your pet away from standing water, especially after a rainstorm,” cautions Dr. Adler. Also, speak with your family veterinarian about the leptospirosis vaccine, especially now that the disease seems to be more prevalent or common. Vaccination can save a dog from life threatening illness, and large veterinary bills.

If your dog is diagnosed with leptospirosis, it can be treated 
if discovered in its early stages. This includes antibiotics and supportive care in the hospital. And, it’s important to note that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. That means it could potentially be spread from your dog, to you. Although the risk of transmission from dog to owner is low, there are some things dog owners should do to protect themselves if their pet is diagnosed with leptospirosis, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  1. Dr. Jennifer Adler, Board Certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist at CARES

    Follow your veterinarian’s directions on giving your pet their antibiotics.

  2. Avoid contact with your dog’s urine.
  3. If your dog urinates at home, use gloves and a household disinfectant to clean up.
  4. Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water, or other areas where people or animals have access, including playgrounds.
  5. Wash your hands after handling your dog.

Treating leptospirosis and other infectious diseases in dogs 
can be costly, depending upon the severity of the illness. We advise pet owners to consider a pet insurance plan as a way to protect your pet from potentially expensive veterinary care.

Many pet owners today opt to purchase pet insurance before any preexisting condition arises.

You can learn more about pet insurance plans by going online.

If you have any questions about leptospirosis, talk to your family veterinarian or feel free to make an appointment at CARES by calling 215-750-2774.