disease control – part 2: dr. Rebecca Jackson explains leptospirosis
Yesterday, we talked a little about where pets contract Leptospirosis, and some of the clinical signs of infection. In today’s blog, I want to give you some more information about dealing with the disease.
So how do we diagnose and treat Leptospirosis? Unfortunately, it can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. This is a potentially fatal disease in dogs, so early intervention is essential to ensuring your dog’s best chance of survival.
Your dog’s history of clinical signs is really important in trying to stage where he or she is in the disease process. Your veterinarian will also recommend standard screening tests including a chemistry profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. Specialized testing including blood titers and urine cultures may be done to further evaluate your dog’s condition.
Leptospirosis can be difficult to treat, especially if your dog is in the later stages of infection and substantial organ damage has occurred. Hospitalization with intravenous fluid therapy, antibiotic therapy, and supportive therapy (depending on your dog’s clinical signs) is necessary in the early stages of treatment. Antibiotic therapy will need to continue for 4-6 weeks, with follow-up testing to ensure that the infection is cleared.
There is a vaccine for leptospirosis that we use routinely. It is often given in combination with your dog’s distemper vaccine. The vaccine protects against four of the subspecies of Leptospira, but it does not fully protect against all of the potentially infectious species. It is, however, the best vaccine that we have at this point, so be sure to speak with your veterinarian about whether or not this vaccine is recommended for your dog. In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR PET PARENTS: Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. This means it can be transmitted from your dog to you or your family members (young children or immunocompromised individuals are especially susceptible).
This transmission usually occurs through interaction with your dog’s urine or other body fluids before or during treatment. Leptospirosis is just as dangerous to humans as it is to dogs, so it is important to understand what the disease is, and how it is transmitted.
If you have any questions regarding Leptospirosis and humans, you should speak with your human health care provider. If you have any questions regarding Leptospirosis and your four legged family member, contact your veterinarian.
To more waggin’ and purrin’. rwkj