This post is part of our Hurricane Series and is dedicated to the possible infectious disease outbreaks that can occur after the passing of a hurricane. After 2+ weeks of Hurricane Maria, there is a possible outbreak of Leptospirosis. This is due to all the uncleaned debris left out on the streets, lack of garbage pickups, and stagnant water in some areas. Avoid letting your pet roam freely during these conditions. This bacterial infection is deadly if it goes untreated on time and you can risk exposure to yourself, family, and others.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is an infection of bacterial spirochetes that dogs can acquire it when subspecies of the Leptospira interrogans penetrate their skin and spread throughout the body by way of the bloodstream.Leptospirosis mainly occurs in tropical, sub-tropical and wet environments. Especially in marshy/muddy areas with stagnant water frequented by animals. It can affect their entire body, reproducing in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Younger animals with a less developed immune system are at the highest risk of complications.
How can my dog get infected?
Dogs can get easily infected by coming in contact with infected water, soil, or mud, while swimming, passing through, or drinking contaminated water. They can also get infected from coming into contact with urine from an infected animal.
Can humans get infected?
YES! The Leptospira spirochete bacteria are zoonotic, which means that it can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Children are most at risk of acquiring the bacteria from an infected pet.
What are the symptoms in dogs?
- Sudden fever and illness
- Sore muscles, reluctance to move
- Stiffness in muscles, legs, stiff gait
- Lack of appetite
- Increased thirst and urination, may be indicative of chronic renal (kidney) failure, progressing to inability to urinate
- Rapid dehydration
- Vomiting, possibly with blood
- Diarrhea – with or without blood in stool
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Dark red speckled gums (petechiae)
- Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes – anemic symptoms
- Spontaneous cough
- Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, irregular pulse
- Runny nose
- Swelling of the mucous membrane
- Mild swelling of the lymph nodes
What to do if I think my dog has Leptospirosis?
If you believe the dog is infected with leptospirosis try to isolate the dog from other pets and children. You will need to treat any body fluid from your dog as a biohazard material. Always wear latex gloves and handle everything with extreme caution. Contact your veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis. Depending on the results your dog might get hospitalized and treatments will vary on the severity of the infection.
Is there a vaccine available?
YES, but not everywhere! Ask your veterinarian to see if the vaccine is available in your area.
If you have other pets or children that might have had contact with the infected pet and are not showing symptoms yet, it would be practical to get them checked out. This will avoid any other type of outbreak in your home and possible a re-infection of your recovering pet.
How to prevent the dog from getting infected with Leptospirosis
- Vaccinate your dog; This will not prevent your dog from getting infected but will help lessen the severity of the symptoms.
- Avoid any contact with stagnant water.
- Keep the food in a secure and in a clean container; If you feed canned food, make sure to wipe clean the lid before opening.
- Do not leave the food plates out overnight; This will help avoid attracting plagues and possible contamination from rats urine.