Leptospirosis in dogs is not a very well-known disease to many dog owners.
However, it is especially dangerous to your canine friend in that it can result in severe kidney failure, severe liver disease, and in severe cases, it has been fatal.
In severe cases, dogs have gone into shock and have passed within hours of going into shock, it can be that serious.
And it is growing each year, worldwide.
What is even more concerning about Leptospirosis is that unlike a lot of other dog diseases is that it is zoonotic, which means it can be transferred to humans.
Zoonotic diseases are those diseases that can be transmitted by infectious agents between animals and humans, or are shared between them.
Other examples would be rabies, ringworm and Lyme disease.
Although not as common, it is still a risk in humans, especially infants and small children.
If their immune systems are not fully developed, pregnant women, elderly, and immune compromised patients such as HIV or AID patients.
However, people that clean up after animals such as farmers and even kennel owners are also at a higher risk of contracting this disease.
Swimming or wading in waters that may be contaminated could also place both dogs and humans at risk.
What is also very troubling about Leptospirosis, although there is a vaccine for it, the vaccine is only effective for about 6 to 8 months at a maximum.
It only protects against two of the virtual family or organisms that cause this horrible disease.
A very good simulation would be the various forms of flu vaccines that are only effective if you have that particular form of flu strain, similar to what we are seeing now with the swine flu.
Leptospirosis is contracted in your dog primarily through the contact of an infected animal, but it can also be transmitted by bites or by ingesting infected material.
And as we all know, dogs are famous for ingesting almost anything.
The very nature of dogs constantly sniffing at urine spots of other dogs or wild animals place them at a higher risk.
Rural animals would be more exposed that urban dogs, but kennels are also a large breeding ground for the transmission of this disease.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is worldwide, and is growing at an alarming rate in subtropical and temperate climates, making this disease is one of the fastest growing dog diseases in the United States.
The organism that causes this disease belongs to the phylum called spirochaetes.
A phylum is a kingdom ranking in biology, and is higher than a class in size, which will tell you that it has a lot of members, or in this case, bacteria.
These forms of bacteria are very distinctive in that they have long, helically coiled bodies that almost resemble ribbons.
There are approximately 230 serological distinct forms of these bacteria, but only 9 are known to cause diseases in dogs, and of that 9, only 4 have been identified to cause the disease in dogs.
The domestic animals that can affect your dog with this disease include cows, horses, and pigs; while wild animals will include rats, raccoons, hedgehogs, armadillos mongoose, and skunks.
All of these animals most likely will be infected by contaminated water they either drink or wade in, and then pass it on to dog through their urine or feces.
Leptospirosis will affect your dog by gaining entrance into their bloodstream either through the mucus membranes or through wounds.
It will normally take between 4 to 12 days for symptoms to occur, but once it is in your dog’s bloodstream, it travels very rapidly spreading to their body organs, concentrating on the liver, the spleen, and the kidneys.
Your dog’s natural immune system will fight most of this infection off by nature by producing antibodies, but it is very difficult for them to remove it from the kidneys and the liver.
When it does cause death in dogs, it is usually due to the destruction of the liver.
The symptoms that your dog will first have will include fever, loss of appetite, mild to severe muscle pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, which than leads to dehydration.
Jaundice may occur and your dog may develop an extreme tenderness in their abdominal areas or in their lower back.
In very extreme and acute cases, your dog may suddenly go into shock and die within hours.
Once Leptospirosis has been properly diagnosed by your veterinarian, it can be treated with common antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin.
Severe cases will have to involve therapies for the liver, if it is not too late.
What is even more frustrating about this disease is that if your dog does survive, they are immune from that strain that caused the infection.
However the protection does not cross species and does not protect them from other strains of this growing disease.
The best protection you can provide for you dog is to get them vaccinated at least every six months, keep them away from contaminated waters, and supplement them regularly with vitamins.
This will help build their immune system, especially the B Class of vitamins as well as Vitamin C.
You can not stop your dogs from sniffing and eating strange stuff, as that is their nature, but you can, as owners, keep them protected by building their immune systems the best you can.