What does Leptospirosis in dog means?
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by spirochete bacteria including Leptospira canicola (most common).Spirochetes bacteria are shaped like spiral thread and are thin, filamentous and flexible. These are gram negative aerobic bacteria that means oxygen is required for their growth and reproduction. Because the organism survives in surface water such as river, stream swamp for extended period the disease is often water borne. This disease affects virtually all mammals, including human. The most concerned aspect of this disease is the board range of effect in dog and other animal, from mild asymptomatic symptoms to multiple organ failure and death. This is a zoonotic disease (the disease is transmitted from animal to man)so there is a great awareness and information needed toward pet owner for their own protection and personal safety. Many dogs can have Leptospirosis infection without showing clinical signs. They become carrier, spreading the disease to other.
How is the disease caused or spread?
The disease is spread by the urine of the infected animal.Leptospirosis infect cattle, sheep ,wild animal, rat and man. Rat appears to be the main reservoir of the infection.
Spirochete enters a dog’s system through a break in skin or via a alimentary route. When the dog drink water or eats food contaminated by infected urine they contracted the disease. Most of the case t are mild or subclinical means no prominent symptoms are manifested.
Signs of the illness appear within five to fifteen days interval. Fever is present in the early stage of the disease. It is accompanied by listlessness, loss of appetite and mental depression. When illness occurs it can cause kidney inflammation (nephritis) or a more generalized disease involving the liver and often accompanied by blood in urine.
The other classic sign includes hunched- up gait because of the pain in kidney area, the formation of ulcer of mucus membrane of mouth and tongue, the appearance of thick brown coating in tongue, bleeding from mouth or passage of bloody stool and severe thirst with increased urination. There can also be redness of conjunctiva of eye. In severe cases, there may be jaundice and the white of the eye may turn yellow. These indicate liver involvement.
Persistent vomiting and diarrhea are common. Dog have difficulty eating and swallowing because of sores in mouth.
How is the disease diagnosed in dog?
A presumptive diagnosis can be made on the basis of dog’s clinical sign and physical finding. Blood test may reveal increased number of white blood cells, reduced platelet count(needed for blood clotting mechanism) and kidney involvement. Serum sample shows increases level of antibodies. Sometime the leptospira bacteria may be seen under the microscope in urine of infected animal or its tissue sample.
What are the treatment options?
Supportive therapy including intravenous fluid is given according to signs. Appropriate antibiotic are given for at least three weeks, or often for longer period. Severe ill dog should be hospitalized for public health reason and to provide more intensive care. Some dog develop chronic kidney failure. They became carrier and shed bacteria in the urine for up to a year.
How to prevent Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis bacteria are spread in the urine of carrier animal such as rodent shunk and can infect or contaminate water and soil in places where these animal congregate or gather. Inarea where leptospirosis is potential problem dog should be regularly vaccinated. Leptospirosis vaccine does not guarantee protection, however, rather, it protect some dogs and reduce the seriousness of infection in others.
Present vaccine provide immunity lasting for up to 18 month. Routine booster vaccine may be necessary for some dogs means the vaccine has to be repeated in regular interval of time.
Advice to pet owner
As mentioned earlier Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, transmissible to human. It causes a disease in human called weil’s disease. Precaution should be taken when handling the sick dog or cleaning up their quarter to avoid contact with infected secretion mainly urine.
Dr. Pratik Man Pradhan
Mount Everest Kennel Club