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Posted on 06-28-2017
Leptosporosis: A re-emerging zoonotic threat.
Leptosporosis is one of the most wide-spread zoonotic diseases in the world. A "zoonotic" disease is one that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Most cases of Leptosporosis in the United States occur in Hawaii. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 200 cases of leptosporosis in humans reported in a typical year. However, there has been a marked increase in cases reported in pets, beginning in 2013.
The pathogen responsible for leptosporsis, Leptospira, can survive in soil or water for weeks and even months. Rats are the most common carriers, but the disease can also be transmitted by domestic animals such as sheep, pigs, horses, cattle, goats, and dogs. Several species of Leptospira bacteria can cause disease in dogs and prevalence varies by region. Dogs can pick up the bacteria through a cut in the skin or when they drink contaminated water. The disease is transmitted to humans through the urine of infected animals.
The symptoms of leptosporosis usually appear between 4-12 days after exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, lethargy, and blood in the urine. In serious cases, jaundice may be present since the bacteria primarily affects the kidneys and liver. In dogs, as in humans, jaundice is most evident in the whites of the eyes. In mild cases, symptoms may be absent. Generally, young dogs seem to be more affected than older dogs. Seriously ill dogs must be hospitalized to receive proper hydration and nutritional support. Milder cases can be treated at home, as long as the owner takes proper precautions when cleaning up urine of the affected pet.
It is important to be familiar with the symptoms of leptosporosis as Leptospira infection is very treatable with antibiotic therapy. Early diagnosis and treatment reduce the liklihood of the pet transmitting the disease.
Dogs most at risk are those that spend a lot of time in or around ponds or other bodies of water. Leptospira flourishes in stagnant water. Prevalence of infection is greater in the summer and fall, or during periods of flooding.
A vaccine for Leptospirosis is available from veterinarians and should be given yearly, starting when the dog is around 4 months of age. Veterinarians differ in their opinions on the lepto vaccine, so it is important to discuss this matter with your Animal Care veterinarian at your dog's annual vaccination appointment.
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