Do Dogs Get Leptospirosis – The Dangerous Truth About Leptospirosis In Dogs



This question is an important one. Do dogs get Leptospirosis? Leptospirosis can be found in dogs and humans. But what is this disease? What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs? Leptospirosis in dogs can be a dangerous and life-threating disease. That’s why I want to write some details about it, to protect our dogs from it.

Dog’s leptospirosis symptoms are different than those in humans. Knowing everything related to dog’s Leptospirosis is a crucial thing to do to protect your dog and yourself in the process! Dogs enjoy going out for a walk and to play. Therefore, you need to know more about this lurking bacteria in your dog playground.

Leptospira bacteria is the cause behind this disease, “Leptospirosis.” This bacteria lives in soil and water; therefore, it can be found anywhere worldwide! You also need to know that this bacteria has many strains that can cause illness.

The dangerous part of Leptospirosis to humans, that this disease considered as “zoonotic disease,” which means we can get infected from a diseased dog.

Most sick people with this bacteria show signs of flu-like symptoms, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. Leptospirosis can also cause liver and kidney diseases.

Leptospirosis is more common in areas with warm climates and high annual rainfall, but it can also occur anywhere.


Risk Factors For Leptospirosis In Dogs

Leptospira bacteria commonly affect dogs. The disease itself is rare in cats, and even if the cat catches this bacteria, the infection is mild. Although very little is known about this infection in this species.

The most common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs is the area your dog living in, dogs residing in areas exposed to or drinking from rivers, lakes, or streams can get infected. Also, roaming on rural areas can put your dog at risk of being exposed to infected wild animals, farm animals, or contaminated water sources.

For dogs to become infected and develope Leptospirosis is easy once your dog’s mucous membranes or a wound get into contact with infected urine, contaminated water, soil, food, or bedding with an infected dog, your dog develop Leptospirosis. The bacteria Leptospira can also penetrate the soft lining of the mouth, nose, and eyelid.

What Happens Once My Dog Is Infected?

Same as any other bacterial infection, after your dog gets infected, the bacteria start to multiply in the bloodstream, and they move to the body tissues. These bacteria begin to concentrate in the liver and kidney, which cause extensive damage to these organs.

After about eight to ten days after the dog’s infection, the immune system starts to produce antibodies to clear most of the bacteria from the body. However, the damage caused by these bacteria can be extensive, and it could lead to Kidney and Liver failure.

Unfortunately, if the infection is severe, the damage is irreversible and quickly become fatal. That’s why early diagnosis and treatment is a crucial part of your dog’s life!

In many cases, the infection is mild, and the dog recovers from this infection. However, many of these dogs appear to be well healed. But small numbers of bacteria survive in their bodies and mostly concentrated in the kidney. These bacteria lead to a long-term shedding of small numbers of bacteria in the urine, which can infect other animals or dogs, and that’s how a dog becomes a carrier.


Signs Of Leptospirosis In Dogs

The Symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs vary. Some infected dogs with mild infection do not show any signs of illness, and they mostly recover spontaneously, while other dogs develop severe disease, and it can be fatal.

Signs of Leptospirosis in dogs as any other bacterial infection may include fever, shivering, or muscle tenderness. The Signs of Leptospirosis in dogs may also include changes in the frequency of or the amount of urination, increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, jaundice (which means the lining of the mouth and the whites of the eyes turn yellow) or painful inflammation of the eyes.

As we mentioned before, if the infection is severe, the disease can cause kidney and liver failure. Also, some dogs occasionally develop severe lung disease and have difficulty breathing.

You also need to know that Leptospirosis can cause bleeding disorders, which can be seen with the vomit as blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool, or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots.

Infected dogs can also develop fluid accumulation in their bodies, which cause swollen legs, accumulate excess fluids in their abdomen or chest.

As you can notice, Signs of Leptospirosis in dogs are essential for us to know to be able to discover the disease early and help your dog to get better faster. Symptoms of Leptospirosis in dogs can be tricky because so many diseases share these symptoms, but when suspect this disease with these symptoms and signs, you have to contact your vet for further investigation.


Diagnosis Of Leptospirosis In Dogs

Routine Blood Tests In Leptospirosis

Unfortunately, routine blood tests are not a definitive diagnosis for Leptospirosis; they can, however, provide valuable clues and information and should be considered the starting point of any investigation for any disease.

When your veterinarian runs these blood tests and finds some clues that suggest a dog has Leptospirosis, then they will run additional investigations and definitive testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Routine blood tests include CBC (Complete Blood Count), Biochemical Profile, Urinanalysis.

In CBC, Leptospirosis infection increases the numbers of the WBC (White Blood Cells), which indicated the presence of infection inside the body. Decrease the number of platelets which show severe disease, decrease the numbers of red blood cells due to bleeding.

As for the biochemistry profile, high liver and/or kidney values shows the damage to the kidney and/or liver. Abnormal values for potassium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride indicate severe illness and extensive damage to the kidney as it shows unbalanced metabolism.

The Urinalysis may show results showing kidney damage such as dilute urine, the presence of protein, blood, and evidence of inflammation.


What Are The Definitive Tests To Diagnose Leptospirosis?

Although there are several tests to diagnose Leptospirosis, DNA-PCR, and MAT (Microscopic Agglutination Test) are the most common ones and the best among others. However, in some cases, both tests may be needed to reach a definitive diagnosis.

DNA-PCR test for Leptospirosis

This test is a rapid and particular test that detects the DNA of Leptospira in whole blood or urine. Usually, urine is often the preferred sample because of the large numbers of bacteria that are generally present. DNA-PCR test is faster and often less expensive than the other test (MAT).

DNA-PCR is an excellent test, but like any other test, it has limitations. One of which and the most important is that this test must be done before the intake of antibiotics to avoid the negative results, which can make it difficult to detect the bacteria.

Leptospira bacteria are easy to be killed by antibiotics; even small doses can make it difficult to detect the infection using DNA-PCR. 

 Antibiotics quickly kill Leptospira, and even small doses can make it difficult to detect infection using DNA-PCR. Experts prefer to use this test in the early stages of moderate to severe disease when large numbers of bacteria are present in the urine. 

Note that eight to ten days is enough for the dog’s body to start producing antibodies that kill the bacteria, and that will cause to reduce numbers of bacteria inside the body and make it difficult to detect the disease using DNA-PCR.

In some and a few cases, infected dogs may give negative results on the DNA-PCR test (False Negative). This DNA-PCR result is common after the intake of the antibiotics. If the infection is suspected and the test is negative, further tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis. The next test is MAT to be done to verify the presence of the infection. 


MAT Test For Leptospirosis

The MAT or microscopic agglutination test detects the presence of antibodies against Leptospira in a dog’s blood. Your vet can confirm the infection if the level of antibodies (Which is called a titer) is high enough or can be shown to be rising over time.

The same as DNA-PCR, MAT is an excellent test, but it also has its limitations. It is a slower test than the DNA-PCR test, and it may take several days to get results back from the laboratory.

Also, sometimes, your vet may ask for a follow-up test called the convalescent sample. This follow-up test is needed to confirm the infection, which can also make the diagnosis slower. The other problem MAT has, it’s results can be inconclusive if the patient has been previously vaccinated for Leptospirosis, or if the dog took antibiotics in the early stage of the disease before the immune system has a chance to produce the antibodies that necessary for this test.

Treatment Of Leptospirosis In Dogs

The primary treatment for Leptospirosis is antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually very effective in treating Leptospirosis. There are two phases of Leptospirosis antibiotic treatment: 

  • The first phase is meant to quickly clear the most severe or acute infection from the body. 
  • The second phase is to clear the low-grade lingering infection found in carrier dogs. This phase is essential to protect other dogs and yourself from getting infected later on.

In the case of dogs with severe kidney and liver damage, they may require In addition to antibiotics hospitalization for intravenous fluid treatment and other therapy.

The prognosis of mild and moderate cases of Leptospirosis is good. However, the prognosis for severely infected dogs is bad because overwhelming infection usually causes irreversible organ damage (to the kidney and liver), resulting in rapid deterioration and death in spite of appropriate treatment.



So finally, I hope you found this article useful and informative. Let me know your answer. What do you think? Do you have more information about Leptospirosis in dogs? Write them down below.

If you have any other questions or different opinions about it, leave a comment below.

Today’s Quote:

“Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the hydrant.” –Author Unknown


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4 years ago

Wow what a great topic that can really help dog owners. I have had dogs over the years and they have had the small sick issues but never anything like Leptospirosis. I was wondering if there is a certain size dog that would be affected by this more than another. Meaning I have always had golden retrievers which are larger breed. My parents have had both small and large dogs but never have seen any issues. Could be that we live in Wisconsin you had said the temperature of warmer climates will make it easier for the disease to attract. Well anyways thank you for the great information we have been talking about getting another dog soon.

4 years ago

Dog owners should be aware of this, but I can see how it would stress them greatly to know that anytime their dog goes outside they must be supervised. So many people let their dogs roam about freely. Is there a vaccine to prevent this disease from setting in, So dogs can still feel free, but stay safe? Perhaps it would be good to have a test kit and light antibiotics at home in case of emergencies. (If that sort of thing exists for this bacteria) Makes me wonder just how many illnesses pets can receive by being outside unsupervised.

4 years ago

I’d never heard of this disease before. Considering I’ve been around dogs all my life I’m really glad to know about this Leptospirosis. Not only for the dogs health but also knowing it can be passed to humans! That’s scary. Thank you so much for sharing!

4 years ago

Detailed piece. I didn’t know about Leptospirosis until now. Sounds like a dangerous disease considering it infects kidney, liver and as well as the lungs. Glad to know there is treatment for it, but when it comes to humans, do they also catch this disease in parks, lakes, etc or it’s generally from a diseased dog or cat?

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