You and your pet are at risk for Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis, although around for many years, dipped into obscurity for awhile before showing up more often in cases in neighboring Sarasota and Manatee counties. It is the most common zoonotic disease, meaning it both affects and can be spread between animals and humans. Initially, it shows itself in flu-like symptoms but can progress to liver disease, kidney failure, miscarriage, or even death. Prevent your pet from this bacterial disease before it is too late.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto for short) is a rare, but potentially serious bacterial infection that can affect the brain, liver, kidney, lung, or heart. It is most commonly found in humid, tropical climates (such as Florida).

Causes of Leptospirosis

  • Coming into contact with bodily fluids or urine of infected animals.
  • Drinking or coming into contact with water, soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated with urine or bodily fluids from infected animals.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis

Signs of symptoms may begin to show between 2 days to 4 weeks of exposure to the bacteria. When there are symptoms, it shows up similarly to flu-like symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden fever, chills, pain, and headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Skin rash / Petechial rash (visual examples here)
  • Red eyes
  • Reduced urine output
  • Neck stiffness

A diagnosis can be determined with a physical exam and possible blood tests or cultures.

Risk Factors of Leptospirosis

People THAT at risk, but are not limited to:

  • When participating in recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, rafting, swimming (in lakes, rivers, streams).
  • Workers in floodplains or wet agricultural settings (farmers, mine workers, sewer workers, fishermen, military personnel).
  • Workers or people who come into contact with animals (slaughterhouse workers, fishermen and those who work with fish, dairy farmers, veterinarians, and animal caretakers).

Animals (dead or living) that commonly spread Leptospirosis, but are not limited to:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rodents
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums
  • Cattle
  • Swine
  • Horses
  • Buffaloes
  • Sheep
  • Goats

Treatment for Leptospirosis

If caught early, treatment for Leptospirosis includes specific antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline. However, the severity of the infection will determine further treatment, as it may infect the kidneys, liver, lungs, brain, or heart.

Prevention of Leptospirosis

Preventing the disease with a  yearly vaccine is preferable to treating the disease after an infection has already started in your pet. Please note that vaccines are not currently available for us humans.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Avoiding contact with water (rivers, streams, lakes, puddles) or soil that may be contaminated, especially when you or your pet have any cuts or abrasions on the skin.
  • Do not walk, swim, or swallow water that may be contaminated. Basic filtration of drinking water will not help—here is a more extensive list at how to properly disinfect drinking water should your area see another rise in Leptospirosis cases.
  • Wear protective clothing or footwear near soil or water that may be contaminated with animal urine (neighborhood sidewalks and dog parks!).

Speak with your vet

Prevent your pet from Leptospirosis today. One yearly vaccination at little cost could save your pet's life and even another animal's life.


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