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Leptospirosis Can Infect Dogs and Humans


In 2017, Dr. Reindel completed an internship at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) where she was part of an Epi-Aid team that investigated an outbreak of Leptospirosis in dogs in Arizona.  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect dogs, humans, and other animals.

Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals (rodents, wildlife, pets, and livestock), which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months.  The bacteria can enter the body through skin (especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch) or through contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to contaminated water or soil.

In dogs, diagnosis can be challenging. Symptoms may include: low energy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, changes in thirst or urination habits, jaundice (yellowing of the skin). In severe cases, leptospirosis can cause liver and/or kidney failure, which can be fatal.

Reducing a dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection. This may include the following:

  • Avoid letting your dog drink from or swim in rivers, lakes, ponds, marshy areas or slow moving or stagnant water
  • Minimize contact with wildlife, farm animals and rodents, including carcasses
  • Having your pet vaccinated against leptospirosis

In people, leptospirosis most often causes flu-like symptoms, though can also cause more severe illness such as liver and/or kidney disease. Taking precautions such as hand washing following contact with an animal’s urine, using a household antibacterial cleaning solution to clean areas where an animal has urinated, and avoiding contact with areas that may be contaminated with animal urine.

The team at Glove Cities Veterinary Hospital is happy to answer any of the questions regarding leptospirosis in dogs. Questions related to human cases of leptospirosis should be directed towards your primary healthcare provider.