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Parasites, bacteria, and viruses are fairly common among pets. Whether acquired from another pet, a wild animal, or their own mother, infection typically occurs within a pet’s direct environment. Many of these contagions are also zoonotic or capable of being transmitted to human pet owners, which makes them even more concerning.

While a veterinary exam is not always necessary as some viral infections can subside on their own, others need immediate care, so it is always best to seek proper diagnosis and treatment. If you notice abnormal behavior or symptoms in your pet, please contact our office so we can determine what is ailing them.

Read through the following sections to learn more about common viruses, parasites, and bacteria which affect pets.

Strain of Leptospirosis Primary Carrier Contagious for Canines Contagious for Felines Contagious for Humans Other Domestic and Wild Carriers
Bratislava horse, pig, rat yes no yes Field mice, fox, mice, opossum. raccoon, skunk
Autumnalis Mouse yes no yes Opossum, racoon, rat
icterohaemorrhagiae Rat yes yes yes Ape, civet, fox, hedgehog, opossum, mouse, muskrat, raccoon, skunk, woodchuck
Pomona Cow, opossum, pig, skunk yes yes yes Deer, fox, hedgehog, mouse, raccoon, wolf, woodchuck
Canicola Dog yes yes yes Armadillo, hedgehog, mongoose, rat, raccoon, skunk
Bataviae Dog, mouse, rat yes yes yes Armadillo, field mice, hedgehog, shrew
Hardjo Cow yes no yes Wild bovidae
Grippotyphosa Dog, mouse, rat yes yes yes Fox, bobcat, hedgehog, mouse, muskrat, rat, shrew, squirrel, weasel

Because there is a vaccine for leptospirosis and any pet could come into contact with the disease at some point, we do recommend getting your pet vaccinated, especially pets who live in high-risk areas or pets who have contracted the disease once before. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means it can spread between infected humans or animals to others.

If you have any questions about the infection or would like to make an appointment for vaccination, please contact our office.

Indications your pet might have leptospirosis:

  • Dehydration.

  • Depression.

  • Excessive drooling.

  • Fever.

  • Increased thirst.

  • Jaundice.

  • Muscle tenderness.

  • Red colored urine.

  • Runny nose.

  • Shivering.

  • Vomiting.

Pet owners will start to notice signs of a fever within 4-12 days of exposure to the bacteria. We recommend contacting our office at the first indication that something might be wrong. Like most infections, leptospirosis is easily managed when first contracted but can cause more damage the longer it remains in the body; it is also contagious for humans and other household pets.

While there are over 213 strains of leptospirosis, only 8 can infect humans and dogs, and 5 can infect cats. This table shows you the various strains that are contagious to humans and domestic pets, the primary sources the bacteria can be developed from, and other known sources from which you or your pets might obtain the disease:

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

During your pet’s exam the veterinarian will ask you to describe the symptoms that led you to believe your pet was ill. If a leptospirosis diagnosis is positive, this information will give us a good indication of the progression of the infection and will aide in combating the bacteria. Urine and blood samples will be taken and cultured to determine if any bacteria is present, and the body’s immune system response to infection will be tested by measuring antibodies in the bloodstream; this will help determine the level of infection.

Diagnosing leptospirosis is always done cautiously. Because humans can contract the bacteria from pets, our vets and technicians handle these cases with extreme caution, and we advise pet owners to also take extreme caution when handling a potential case of leptospirosis. Any bodily fluid is a biohazard and needs to be disposed of properly to avoid contamination of oneself, other pets, and wildlife.

Treating leptospirosis

Most pets diagnosed with leptospirosis need to be in isolation to prevent spreading infection to owners and other animals. For severe infection that has progressed beyond the early stages, hemorrhaging and dehydration may have started occurring which will require hospitalization. If a pet comes to our facility with either of these symptoms, they will need 24-hour care and observation until their condition improves.

Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics for a period of four weeks or longer, depending on the stage of the bacterial infection. During the period that your pet is being medicated, they should remain under close observation and be checked for any negative reaction to prescribed medications. The prognosis for most pets is positive when severe organ damage has not yet occurred. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior while taking medication, contact our office immediately.