What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacteria transmitted through the urine of infected animals. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, mice and rats are thought to be the most common carriers of the disease. Historically, this disease was limited to dogs exposed to irrigation fields, lakes, and streams, but with increasing urbanization suburban dogs are now at risk.

In Santa Clarita, many houses are bordered by wildlife corridors and pet owners routinely take their dogs on walks in Placerita Canyon or other undeveloped spaces. This places the majority of dogs in Santa Clarita at risk of exposure to leptospirosis. Fortunately, cats have proven to be highly resistant to the infection and are not considered at risk for developing the disease.

How Could My Dog Get Leptospirosis?

A dog could come in contact with leptospirosis by walking in the urine of an infected animal and licking his paw, licking the grass contaminated with urine, or drinking from a stagnant water source. Once the leptospirosis bacteria has infected a dog, it spreads throughout his or her bloodstream and reproduces in the eyes, liver, nervous system, kidneys and reproductive organs. Once the infection progresses, it can cause fatal organ complications including liver and kidney failure.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of leptospirosis are often vague and could potentially be caused by another disease process. This means that a thorough history, physical exam, and diagnostics are required to confirm a leptospirosis case.


Symptoms Include:

  • A sudden fever
  • Stiff and/or sore muscles
  • General weakness and/or depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)


Is Leptospirosis Contagious?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is one of a handful of diseases that your dog could pass to you or your family members. If you suspect your pet is infected, do not handle their urine and contact a veterinarian for advice immediately. At Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, we have an in-house test for leptospirosis that we can use on unvaccinated animals to determine if they are infected rapidly.


How Can I Protect My Pet?

Fortunately, there is a highly efficacious and safe vaccination we can give your at risk dog to protect him or her. You can call Santa Clarita Animal Hospital at 661-425-9912 to make an appointment or to speak with a veterinarian regarding your pet’s risk and potential side effects of the vaccine.

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