There are very few diseases you can get directly from your pet, but one of them is especially easy to contract: leptospirosis, a highly contagious illness spread through the urine of infected wildlife.
Dogs don’t even need to make contact with wildlife to get the disease. Drinking water from puddles or streams or ingesting dirt that’s contaminated with the urine of common backyard animals like squirrels, raccoons, and foxes is enough to make your dog very sick. You should also know that “lepto” is zoonotic—meaning it can be easily transmitted to people.
Our own Dr. Holly Mincks has first-hand experience with leptospirosis, though it took a while to diagnose. While attending veterinary school in St. Kitts, she adopted her dog Calixte, who dribbled urine—but even after diagnostic tests, no one could figure out the cause. Calixte was put on medication to manage the problem, but even after two years, the drugs didn’t resolve the dribbling completely.
Leptospirosis wasn’t even on the radar because it was thought the disease didn’t exist on St. Kitts. It wasn’t until Dr. Mincks heard a professor lecturing on leptospirosis that she was made aware that in fact, the local bat population carried the disease, so it was present in the water on and around the island.
Calixte was tested for lepto and he came up positive—he’d been a “subclinical carrier” for years, but showing no symptoms except for the dribbling, which was unusual. Calixte responded well to treatment and Dr. Mincks now enjoys spending as much time as possible with her ‘main man!’
Symptoms for both dogs and humans are similar and can include:
• Muscle tenderness
• Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
• Abdominal pain
• Changes in urination
Lepto can also lead to kidney failure and eventual death. The good news is that, caught early, the disease is typically responsive to antibiotics and has a survival rate of about 80%.
Leptospirosis is preventable with an annual vaccine available here at Eastown Veterinary Clinic. We want your pet and your family to be protected! Schedule an appointment online or call us at (616) 649-1075 for more information.