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Monday, November 10, 2014

There's A New Deadly Infection In Town... Leptospirosis!

BY:  Laurie Brzostowski, President, Snaggle Foot Dog Walks and Pet Care-Round Lake

I recently signed up for Google Alerts regarding dogs, puppies, cats, pet food, etc.  I do this because I want to be aware of what is happening out there with our pets.

Yesterday I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a bacterial infection called Leptospirosis.  This is a deadly infection that has been popping up lately in different areas of the country.  To read the article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-forest-lake-bluff/ct-dog-disease-tl-20141026-story.html

Because I found this to be very scary I wanted to make sure my readers are aware of this infection and what to look for if your pets are showing symptoms.

This type of infection must be handled carefully. In fact, you must wear latex gloves when handling your pet if they have this infection. This infection can be passed from animal to human and back to animal so extra care is required.

So here goes:

What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is an infection of bacterial spirochetes, which dogs acquire when subspecies of the Leptospira interrogans penetrate the skin and spread through the body by way of the bloodstream. Two of of the most commonly seen members of this subspecies are the L. grippotyphosa and L. Pomona bacteria. Spirochetes are spiral, or corkscrew-shaped bacteria which infiltrate the system by burrowing into the skin.

Leptospires spread throughout the entire body, reproducing in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Soon after initial infection, fever and bacterial infection of the blood develop, but these symptoms soon resolve with the reactive increase of antibodies, which clear the spirochetes from most of the system. The extent to which this bacteria affects the organs will depend on your dog’s immune system and its ability to eradicate the infection fully. Even then, Leptospira spirochetes can remain in the kidneys, reproducing there and infecting the urine. Infection of the liver or kidneys can be fatal for animals if the infection progresses, causing severe damage to these organs. Younger animals with less developed immune systems are at the highest risk for severe complications.

The Leptospira spirochete bacteria is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Children are most at risk of acquiring the bacteria from an infected pet.

Symptoms and Types:
  • Sudden fever and illness
  • Sore muscles, reluctance to move
  • Stiffness in muscles, legs, stiff gait
  • Shivering
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination, may be indicative of chronic renal (kidney) failure, progressing to inability to urinate
  • Rapid dehydration
  • Vomiting, possibly with blood
  • Diarrhea - with or without blood in stool
  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Dark red speckled gums (petechiae)
  • Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes – anemic symptoms
  • Spontaneous cough
  • Difficulty breathing or fast breathing, irregular pulse
  • Runny nose
  • Swelling of the mucous membrane
  • Mild swelling of the lymph nodes
Causes:
The Leptospira spirochete infection mainly occurs in subtropical, tropical, and wet environments. Leptospira spirochetes are more prevalent in marshy/muddy areas which have stagnant surface water and are frequented by wildlife. Heavily irrigated pastures are also common sources of infection. The infection rate for domestic pets has been increasing in the U.S. And Canada, with infections occurring most commonly in the fall season. Dogs will typically come into contact with the leptospira bacteria in infected water, soil, or mud, while swimming, passing through, or drinking contaminated water, or from coming into contact with urine from an infected animal. This last method of contact might take place in the wild. Hunting and sporting dogs, dogs that live near wooded areas, and dogs that live on or near farms are at an increased risk of acquiring this bacteria. Also at increased risk are dogs that have spent time in a kennel.

Diagnosis:
Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, your veterinarian will be especially cautious when handling your pet, and will strongly advise you to do the same. Protective latex gloves must be worn at all times, and all body fluids will be treated as a biologically hazardous material. Urine, semen, post-abortion discharge, vomit, and any fluid that leaves the body will need to be handled with extreme caution.

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, including a background history of symptoms, recent activities, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to what stage of infection your dog is experiencing, and which organs are being most affected.

Your veterinarian will order a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, an electrolyte panel, and a fluorescent antibody urine test. Urine and blood cultures will also be ordered for examining the prevalence of the bacteria. A microscopic agglutination test, or titer test, will also be performed to measure the body's immune response to the infection, by measuring the presence of antibodies in the bloodstream. This will help to definitively identify leptospira spirochetes and the level of systemic infection.

As always, keep an eye on your pets and if they ever show signs of not feeling well, it is always best to get them to their Veterinarian right away.  It may not be Leptospirosis but better safe than sorry.

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