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  • The Village Vet

Let's Talk: Lepto

The groundhog saw his shadow, which means an early spring, right? Well, that’s what we hope! And when spring fever hits we all get the urge to spend more time outside… more walks, more hikes, more time at the lake… but did you know that also comes with an increased risk of infection for your dogs?

Let’s chat about leptospirosis.


Leptospirosis is a spiral-shaped bacteria that can survive in water and soil. It is most commonly spread through infected urine, which can end up in puddles on the ground, streams, lakes and other bodies of water.

Most people believe that only dogs that go hiking or swimming are exposed… but have you seen any wildlife in your yard? Any mice near your house? Unfortunately raccoons, mice, and other mammals can all spread this disease when they come into our yards, as can stray dogs that are infected but not necessarily showing signs. This disease is also zoonotic, which means it can be spread from our pets to us. Yuck!


Unfortunately, the symptoms of leptospirosis can be very similar to many other disease, including severe forms of lyme disease and toxin exposures, but here are some things to watch for:

  • Lethargy

  • Decreased appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Jaundice

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good reason to call your vet and schedule an examination. Often times we’ll start with blood and urine samples to help diagnose your pet’s condition (IMPORTANT! If your pet ever has changes in urination patterns, PLEASE save a fresh sample for your vet to check. This can be the key to getting the correct diagnosis).


If your dog is stable we may start symptomatic treatment while awaiting the results. If your pet appears to be more severely affected, then we may forgo diagnostics and instead refer you to a 24-hour facility where they can receiving additional testing as well as IV fluids and treatments, and continual monitoring.

Once we confirm a diagnosis of leptospirosis, we will start your dog on antibiotics that help to kill both the bacteria in the blood, and also to eliminate the bacteria from being spread in the urine. It is important to make sure pets stay well hydrated and continue eating during this period, so appetite stimulants, anti-nausea medication and prescription diets are sometimes used to support your dog.

The recovery period often requires several medical progress visits, where we can continue to monitor the kidney and liver, and make sure your pet is improving. Thankfully, this can often be done in the comfort of your own home.


There is a vaccine that protects against 4 of the most common strains of leptospirosis – the ones most likely to cause infections in our canine companions. Not only does this vaccination help prevent dogs from becoming infected, but it also prevents the bacteria from being shed in the urine (which can cause us as humans to become infected).

The initial vaccination consists of a 2-part series. Puppies can start this series as early as 8 weeks of age, but adult dogs can start it at any time. After they receive the initial vaccine, it needs to be booster 2-4 weeks later (don’t miss this booster! If you wait more than 6 weeks your dog may need an additional booster). This is one vaccination that also needs to be given every year.

As a bonus, did you know that I use the Nobivac EDGE Leptospirosis vaccine? That means your pet gets the same protection, but with half the vaccine volume! This vaccine also goes through a special filtration process to remove extra, unnecessary proteins, to help reduce reactions.

Ready to protect your pet? Call today or click here to schedule your appointment!

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