Leptospirosis: The Backyard Threat

There are very few diseases you can get directly from your pet, but one of them is especially easy to contract and can make you both very sick: leptospirosis, a highly contagious illness spread through the urine and feces of infected wildlife such as raccoon, deer, opossums, skunks and rats.

“Lepto” is easy to get because direct contact with wildlife isn’t required to become infected. Simply ingesting contaminated water or moist soil can transmit the illness. Untreated, this disease can cause liver and kidney damage.

That’s what happened to Quinn, a 3-year-old dog who came to see us recently when his owners noticed he’d been extremely lethargic for about a week. Other than weight loss, the vet didn’t observe anything out of the ordinary, but Quinn’s blood work showed elevated kidney values and anemia, signs of kidney failure. Quinn had never had the lepto vaccination and he ended up testing positive for the disease.

While lepto in cats is rare, some pets are at a higher risk than others. They include dogs that:

  • hike, wade or swim in natural bodies of water
  • are exposed to flooded areas
  • reside in suburban and rural areas where there is wildlife
  • have frequent exposure to other dogs and dog urine at dog parks and boarding facilities

You should also be aware that this disease is zoonotic—which means if your dog catches it, the human members of your family could as well. We have a vaccine available to help protect against four different types of leptospirosis, and the vaccine can also help decrease the spread of this disease to people.

We encourage you to consider vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis if they spend any time at all outdoors. To make an appointment for your pet, request one online or call us at (404) 991-2943.

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