Leptospira is a special, spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause serious disease in both animals and humans. It can be responsible for liver and/or kidney failure, and can be found worldwide. Infected individuals experience varied and non-specific symptoms, including fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness, depression, and joint pain.
The bacteria enters the body via contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) or skin, especially if there is a cut or scratch in the skin. Drinking, swimming, or walking through contaminated water are common methods of transmission. Interestingly, urine from infected animals can contaminate water sources and soil, and the bacteria can remain infective in the environment for as long as weeks to months.
While all animals can become infected with Leptospira, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, opossums, and dogs are most commonly infected and can transmit the disease to others. Cats rarely become infected.
Prevention includes avoidance of contaminated areas and vaccination of pets. While no vaccine affords 100% immunity, vaccinating your dog can greatly reduce the chances of developing this serious disease. Ask us if your dog is a candidate for the vaccine, or if you have further questions about the disease.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has a wonderful website about Leptospirosis, and is a great source for information about human and animal health: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/leptospirosis_g.htm