Wednesday, 9th February 2011
with John D Owens M.V.B. veterinary surgeon.
Riverstown Business Park, Tramore Ph 051 393630 Email: anipetsvetclinicatgmail.com
Leptospirosis - a potentially deadly disease of dogs
What is Leptospirosis? How do dogs get it? Is it the same as Weil's Disease in humans?
Leptospirosis is a very serious disease that is an important zoonosis, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It is caused by infection with microscopic organisms called leptospires, which are spread in the urine of infected animals such as rats, mice and dogs. Dogs can lick the urine of an infected rodent off the grass or soil, drink from or swim in contaminated streams or ponds or come in contact through hunting rodents.
The infection goes into the body through the mucosal lining of the mouth, eye or throat, or through broken skin. Then, there is usually a sudden onset of illness: fever, vomiting, extreme depression, jaundice and/or blood-stained diarrhoea. Death can occur in as little as two hours after the first signs of illness are seen, or sometimes the dogs condition can deteriorate rapidly over a number of days. The course of the disease is usually so rapid that serious liver and kidney damage has already happened by the time the dog is seen by a vet.
Leptospirosis is very difficult to treat successfully, and is a very severe disease that causes a high degree of suffering and carries a high probability of death. Sadly, euthanasia is often the only route available to the vet as death is inevitable.
It is important to note that a dog does not have to come into direct contact with an infected dog or rat to become infected itself, as contaminated urine or water is the most common mode of transmission. Also, it is just as common in urban areas as it is in rural areas. Vaccination is the only way of protecting your dog from this horrible disease. Puppies should receive a primary course of vaccinations, consisting of two injections given 2 to 3 weeks apart. Annual booster vaccinations are also essential to keep up the dogs immunity.
Weil's Disease is the human form of this disease, and is also contracted by contact with leptospires shed in urine of infected animals. The symptoms are initially flu-like, e.g. fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, and then progress to more serious secondary effects such as liver damage, meningitis and kidney failure. Hospitalisation is required to survive this disease, infected people can need dialysis and blood tranfusions and full recovery can take months. A small number of people die every year in Ireland and Britain from Weil's Disease.
Consult your vet if you are worried about your dogs vaccination status, and avoid running the risk of leptospirosis.
John Owens graduated from the Veterinary College U.C.D. in 1997. He, along with his wife Susan, recently opened Ani-Pets veterinary clinic in Tramore, which is dedicated to the full time care of all companion animals, including exotic pets. He has a special interest in preventative medicine and nutrition.
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