Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

September Newsletter

Leptospirosis

It’s the fall season again, time for football, school, and…something a little less known and a lot less fun, called Leptospirosis.  Leptospirosis is a contagious disease that can infect pets and their people.  The culprit is bacteria that can cause liver and kidney failure in susceptible animals (most commonly dogs) and it thrives in the moderate temperatures and moist environment of the Nebraska autumn.

Leptospirosis is spread in the urine of wildlife and infected house pets.  Symptoms in dogs are varied and can include fever, vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite, muscle pain, shivering and increased water drinking.  Severe cases can become jaundiced (yellow) due to liver involvement.

The road to diagnosis of Leptospirosis begins with baseline blood work, including a complete blood count and serum chemistry.  The complete blood count is important in looking for an elevation in white blood cells, which can signify infection, and anemia, which can indicate kidney involvement.  Serum chemistry can detect elevations in liver and kidney values.  If symptoms and in-house blood tests suggest a possible Leptospira infection, further testing is required for confirmation.  This involves having an outside laboratory test blood and urine samples for the body’s antibody response to exposure, as well as testing for the organism itself.

Is Leptospirosis treatable?  Yes, and if caught fairly early, treatment is usually successful.  Most dogs need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics for several days.

The good news is that although treatment can be expensive, there is an effective vaccine available, so prevention in dogs is relatively inexpensive and very easy.  If your dog has never been vaccinated, he will initially have to have two vaccines three weeks apart.  Then a vaccine booster should be administered every year.  It is very important that the initial two doses be given in a timely manner (no more than one month in between the two) and it takes at least 7 days for immunity to become protective.

By the way, in the very rare event that a vaccinated dog does become infected with leptospirosis, the manufacturer of the vaccine will cover all diagnostic and treatment costs.   That is, as long as the proper vaccine protocol has been followed.

As the Leptospirosis organism has become prevalent in our area, it is becoming increasingly important that we vaccinate our dogs.  This bacteria can infect people as well, so reducing its presence in our household pets is to everyone’s advantage.  So as we prepare to enjoy the cooler temperatures this autumn, we must also protect our pets from this insidious and dangerous bacterial disease.  Call your veterinarian today and ask about the leptospirosis vaccination.