Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease. In the United States, most cases of human leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water. Infection resulting from contact with an infected pet is much less common, but it is possible.
Risk factors for leptospirosis
Dogs are most commonly affected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs.
Signs of leptospirosis
The signs of leptospirosis in dogs vary. Some infected dogs do not show any signs of illness, some have a mild and transient illness and recover spontaneously, while others develop severe illness and death.
Signs of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), or painful inflammation within the eyes. The disease can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure. Dogs may occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing. Leptospirosis can cause bleeding disorders, which can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots (which may be visible on the gums and other mucous membranes or on light-colored skin). Affected dogs can also develop swollen legs (from fluid accumulation) or accumulate excess fluid in their chest or abdomen.
Treatment and prevention
Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage.
Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended for at-risk dogs. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection.
Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk. If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, take the following precautions to protect yourself:
- Administer antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian;
- Avoid contact with your dog’s urine;
- If your dog urinates in your home, quickly clean the area with a household disinfectant and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with the urine;
- Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access;
- Wash your hands after handling your pet.
If you are ill or if you have questions about leptospirosis in people, consult your physician. If you are pregnant or immunocompromised (due to medications, cancer treatment, HIV or other conditions), consult your physician for advice.
The pool is an excellent place to spend your summers. There’s the sun, the toys and the refreshing drinks with the tiny little umbrellas. Oh, and lest we forget — the water! However, pools can also be dangerous for our dogs. Not all dogs are good swimmers and some breeds like the bulldog may even drown if left unsupervised around a pool. Here are five great tips to help prevent such a tragedy from happening to your dog.
1. Teach Your Dog to Swim
When possible, train your dog to swim. Not comfortable with such a task? Enlist the help of a dog trainer. They are more than equipped to handle your pooch’s fear of water and teach him or her a few swimming basics.
2. Invest in a Dog Life Vest
Life vests and life jackets are perfect for the dog that will never be a great swimmer. They provide extra buoyancy and a dash of bright colors so that your dog can stay afloat and remain highly visible. Just don’t rely on the life vest so much that you leave your dog unattended.
3. Take Care with Older Dogs
Senior dogs are more likely to suffer from arthritis, vision loss, seizures and a host of other health issues that may require your special attention around the pool or prohibit them from swimming altogether. Confirm with your veterinarian if your dog is healthy enough to swim in the pool.
4. Learn Dog CPR
Being able to properly administer artificial respiration and CPR on a dog is vital should your dog accidentally drown in your pool. Some animal organizations and shelters even offer classes on the proper techniques.
5. Fence Your Pool
A pool fence or enclosure is a great option if you are unable to supervise a dog that spends most, if not all, his or her time in the backyard. Not a big fan of enclosing your pool with unseemly posts and metal bars? Consider using an “invisible” fence. Invisible, or underground, fencing enables you to keep your pool looking spectacular without sacrificing your dog’s safety.
Living in a desert-like state like Arizona can pose a number of threats to a pet outdoors, from weather hazards to wildlife dangers. Consider the following five outdoor pet safety tips to keep your four-legged friend safe this season, and give us a call if you have any questions. A Spanish Trail Pet Clinic team member will be happy to assist you.
Every year, hundreds of dogs and cats in the Tucson areas are bitten by rattlesnakes. Protect your pet from rattlesnakes by keeping them on a leash during your walks. Always watch where you put your hands and feet, too, especially if there are wood piles or deep grass in your path. If you see a snake or hear its rattle near your path, gently tighten your grip on your pet’s leash and slowly walk away from the snake. If the snake bites your pet, contact the nearest emergency veterinarian immediately for treatment.
The summer months in Arizona can reach 100 degrees of dry heat, which can cause pets—or anyone, for that matter—to dehydrate if there isn’t sufficient water intake. Always bring plenty of water with you when you go outside with your pet. If you plan to leave your pet outside alone during the day, make sure there’s a sheltered area and a large, secured bowl of fresh water available for them. Keep in mind that short-nosed breeds are more at risk for heat exhaustion, so it’s best to limit these dogs’ time outside to only a few minutes on a hot day.
Many Arizona tarantula species are venomous and contain barbed hairs on their body. If disturbed by your pet, they can release these barbed hairs, which can become embedded on your pet’s face. This can result in extreme irritation or even pain. Most tarantulas burrow underground, so while you’re taking your dog for a walk, steer clear of areas in the ground where holes are present.
Scorpions are common in the desert, especially in crevices and under rocks. When a poisonous scorpion stings, it can result in painful swelling or worse for your pet, so always be on the lookout near these areas. If your pet ever gets stung, there are first aid measures that you can take to alleviate the pain. These include applying a thick paste to the sting area, gently restricting your pet’s movements to prevent the spread of the venom, and preventing your pet from licking the sting area. Fortunately, most scorpion venom isn’t life-threatening.
Colorado River Toads
These poisonous amphibians are most common during the summer rains and desert monsoon season. If disturbed (licked, picked up by your dog, etc.), the Colorado River toad releases its toxin—referred to as bufotenine—as a defense mechanism. If not treated immediately, this toxin can result in seizures, hyperthermia, and even death. Always be cautious around areas with water, which is where these toads thrive, and check your yard regularly to be sure no toads are around. If your pet ever comes in contact with a Colorado River toad’s venom, call the nearest emergency veterinarian or Spanish Trail Pet Clinic at (520) 722-2771.