“I don’t take my dog in the woods – he only goes in my backyard. He barely even goes outside.” Many pet parents think that if my dog only goes outside briefly – he can’t possibly get these diseases.  But the reality is that your furry family member can easily contract bacteria, viruses, parasites, and possibly life-threatening diseases even if outside for a brief period of time.  Dog by LakeOne of the diseases is Leptospirosis, commonly referred to as “Lepto”.  It is a “zoonotic” disease – meaning it can be spread from your dog to you and your family members. It is easily contracted if your dog drinks from any outside water source that has been contaminated.  So Lepto really can be as close as your own backyard.

Here are the Top 4 Questions from our clients regarding Leptospirosis:

What is this reminder I keep getting for a Lepto Vaccine?

The Lepto Vaccine is included in our “core” canine vaccines along with Rabies, Distemper, and Lyme. The Leptospirosis Vaccine is given once yearly, and it includes the four most common strains of the Leptospira bacteria. As puppies, the vaccine is initially administered as a combination in the Distemper booster series. If your adult dog was never given the Leptospirosis vaccine, it is never too late! In this instance, the vaccine is given as a two-shot series, and then on a yearly basis. Administering this vaccine to your dog on a yearly basis is not only highly recommended in the veterinary field, but is beneficial to protecting you and your family.

Is this something that can infect me and my family if my pet was to get it?     

Yes. As previously mentioned, Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. This means the disease can be spread from your dog to you and your family. Leptospirosis can also often be difficult to quickly diagnose due to very broad and common clinical signs such as fever, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. In dogs, signs can range from non-existent to severe illness and death. While the disease is not largely common in humans, it can be contracted from direct contact with an infected animal’s urine. Although the disease is rarely fatal in humans, it can cause severe illness. Knowing this, it is important to practice good hygiene, especially with children. Also wear protective clothing when in areas wildlife reside.

My pet is only exposed to our backyard… do they still need to get it?

Yes! Leptospirosis is carried and spread by not only livestock (cattle, pigs, and sheep) but also neighborhood critters such as deer, raccoons, opossums, skunks, rats, and other rodents. The bacterial disease is spread through infected urine to outdoor water sources including lakes, streams, creeks, puddles, standing water, and any moist surfaces. If any of these creatures have been seen in your backyard, your dog is at risk of exposure to this disease.

Is my pet at risk even if I live in the city?  

Yes, absolutely.  In simple terms, anywhere there is water there is a risk of it being infected with the Leptospirosis bacteria. Your dog can become infected by drinking, swimming, or simply walking through the infected water source. Although it is more common in warm climate areas and areas with high annual rainfall, it has been reported worldwide.

Kelsey Beers, CVT, GVH Veterinary Technician