Leptospirosis is a bacteria which can be found in the environment. It is most common in stagnant or slow moving water, but can also be found in soil. Leptospirosis is spread via the urine of infected animals. This includes many species of wildlife that may move in and out of our yards on a daily basis. Urine contaminated water (such as puddles, ponds, rivers, etc) can serve as a source of infection. The bacteria can infect many mammals and primarily causes liver and kidney failure. It is a very life-threatening disease which can unfortunately be spread to humans as well!
Symptoms can vary quite a bit by the severity and form of Leptospirosis. The most common symptoms to watch for include fever, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tenderness, and urinating/ drinking a lot. These symptoms can be associated with many other diseases, making Leptospirosis a bit difficult to diagnosis.
Elevations in liver and kidney values may make your veterinarian suspicious of Lepto and there are more specific blood tests that can be subsequently run to diagnose the disease. Treatment consists of antibiotics and often aggressive, in hospital care is necessary. Even with aggressive treatment, this disease can be very life threatening.
The best news is that Leptospirosis disease can be prevented by vaccination. We recommend a yearly vaccine which will produce immunity towards the most common Leptospirosis serovars. Prevent your pets from drinking standing water outside, especially after flooding or heavy rainfall. If you see symptoms that may be consistent with Leptospirosis infection, please make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible as early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for success in treatment.
Ask us to learn more about the Leptospirosis vaccine.
article written by:
Derek Williamson, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Vernon Hills and Crawford Animal Hospital
In this second article discussing zoonotic disease, I will focus on other infections, besides parasites, that pets can share with people. A zoonotic disease can be transmitted from animals to people.
Ringworm—Ringworm is actually a fungus. It can create a round spot where it infects the skin. It is itchy and annoying. It is seen in many species of animals, both wild and domestic, but is more often seen in puppies, kittens, or pets from shelter environments. It will linger on surfaces and on bedding used by an animal. Not all animals will have apparent ringworm, but can carry it and give it to others. After diagnosis, it is treated with topical or oral medications. Home disinfection is also important to prevent reinfection.
Leptospirosis—Leptospirosis (lepto) is caused by a bacteria. Initially, a lepto infection will be much like the flu, but it can progress to cause liver disease, kidney disease, or meningitis. It is shed in the urine of infected animals, where it can stay in the soil for weeks. Animals that we have in our yards, such as mice, raccoons, and squirrels can carry lepto. It is also associated with water sources such as lakes and rivers due to animal contamination. People can become infected by contact with broken skin, mucous membranes (mouth, eyes) or by drinking contaminated water. It can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care.
Rabies—Rabies is a fatal viral infection. It is carried by mammals, with skunks, raccoons, bats, and fox being the most popular in the United States. In our area, bats are the source of most exposures. Rabies is fatal. In humans, a vaccination series can be given after exposure to prevent infection. In pets, however, this is not the case. If an unvaccinated pet is believed to be exposed to rabies (bitten by a suspect animal, found playing with a bat, etc.), euthanasia may be recommended. A prolonged, strict quarantine is another option. A vaccinated pet that is believed exposed has a shorter quarantine period. Keeping your pets’ (including indoor cats) rabies vaccination current is strongly recommended; it just saves tremendous worry and difficult decisions if an exposure were to occur. If you are bitten by an animal, washing the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes, then seeking medical care is important.
There are many more zoonotic diseases. This is only the top of a long list. While it can be unnerving to know that there are illnesses our pets could potentially give to us, good pet hygiene, cleanliness, and preventative care will keep us safe and healthy!