Dogs | Healthy Pets, Healthy People

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect people and animals. Many kinds of animals can carry the bacteria in their urine, including dogs. Dogs can be vaccinated to protect against some strains of leptospirosis.

How it spreads: The bacteria that cause leptospirosis spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months. Some animals that can spread leptospirosis include cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals. People get infected through contact with urine or other body fluids (except saliva) from infected animals, or through contact with water, soil, or other materials (such as animal bedding) contaminated with urine from infected animals.

Who is at risk: Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in tropical and subtropical climates. It has been associated with contact with infected animals and activities in contaminated lakes and rivers, such as swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting. It is also a risk for people in certain jobs that involve contact with animals or their waste, like farmers, sewer workers, slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians. People working directly with dogs or cleaning up after them may be at risk for leptospirosis.

Signs in dogs: Dogs infected with leptospirosis may not show any signs of illness. For dogs that do show symptoms, they could include: fever, tiredness, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, conjunctivitis (red eyes), jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), or changes in urination (more than normal, less than normal, or trouble urinating at all). Some dogs with severe illness, such as kidney or liver failure, or bleeding of the lungs, may die from the infection.

Symptoms in people: People with leptospirosis might not have any symptoms, but those who do will usually become sick within 2 days to 4 weeks of exposure and can have high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, conjunctivitis (red eyes), abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. A small number of people with leptospirosis can have more severe disease, such as liver and kidney failure, hemorrhagic pneumonia, and even death. Early treatment with appropriate antibiotics is important and can reduce the duration and severity of illness.