Leptospirosis is an infectious disease in dogs (and other mammals) caused by leptospiral spirochetes. These organisms prefer warm, moist environments and are most likely found in slow moving, stagnant water. A leading source of infection can be from skunk and raccoon urine. Rain and low UV light environments (such as the in the fall) can localize the organisms into puddles of water. Dogs then drinking the water and become infected. These organisms can survive in moist environments for months in optimal conditions.
Most dogs that develop leptospirosis will reveal their clinical symptoms as a result of the liver and kidney damage the organism causes. Symptoms are variable yet typical symptoms would include fever, anorexia (no appetite), vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst and urination.
This is an example of disease condition in which prompt treatment is so important. The earlier your dog is diagnosed, the better the prognosis and with early diagnosis and treatment, survival rates are 80-90%. Your dog will be treated with antibiotics by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will most likely hospitalize your dog so they can administer IV fluids to help support the liver and kidneys. This is a very important treatment component to a successful prognosis.
Although there are multiple serovars (or strains) of the organism, there is a vaccine available in North America that will target 4-5 serovars of the organism. The vaccine can provide immunity for 8-12 months in dogs with a proper boostering schedule. Current recommendations would be to vaccine puppies with 2 vaccines, 3 weeks apart and then yearly.
It is important to discuss this disease with your veterinarian. As the Leptospirosis vaccination is not considered a "core" vaccine in North America, most veterinarians offer this vaccine as an additional option. We highly recommend that you request this vaccine to protect your dog against this potentially fatal infectious disease. Here at Kingsdale Animal Hospital, we include this vaccine with our yearly program at no additional cost to the client.