Leptospirosis, VetVantage

Leptospirosis in a 3 year old Dog

Valerie Kajko


A 3 year old neutered Boston Terrier came in after the owner noticed the dog was acting lethargic, wasn’t eating and was throwing up. The owner reported that the dog had been acting lethargic for a few days and didn’t eat any food that morning nor the night before, but was drinking. The owner also reported that the dog had thrown up white liquid that morning. Upon physical examination of the animal it was noted that his gums were pale white, he had lost weight, and his temperature was 91.6°C. The owner was informed that the dog would need subcutaneous fluids immediately, IV fluids, pain and antibiotic medication, warming, and blood tests to determine what was wrong.

In house blood tests were done, it was seen that the animal was anemic, dehydrated, and was suffering from acute renal failure. Leptospirosis was the first though as to diagnoses, but upon asking the owner if the dog had been near any lakes or streams or had been near any wild animals and finding out no, that diagnosis was non-suspect at that point. The dog was kept overnight, with IV fluids, pain medication and antibiotics, but died later that evening. When blood results were received from the lab a week later, it was shown that the dog was suffering from Leptospirosis.


Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that infects a maintenance host, dogs, rats and cattle, in the renal tubules, the host remains clinically asymptomatic and sheds Leptospires into the environment via urine (Rojas 1). Most often then not a dog will contract Leptospirosis from drinking pond water, touching soil or mud that has been urinated on by a maintenance animal. Leptospirosis not only infects animals, but can also infect humans that come in contact with an infected pet. This disease occurs worldwide, and the highest prevalence is in tropical climates and in warm and wet environments with poor sanitary conditions (Brown 399).

There is a vaccine for Leptospirosis, it lasts for one year and will need a booster the following year, but it isn’t required in Colorado. It is recommended that dogs who have contact with wild animals or streams should get vaccinated. The Leptospirosis vaccine protects against the newer serotypes L. grippotyphosa and L. pomona and against the older serotypes, L. canicola and L. icterohemorrhagiae (Brown 400). Cats are widely not vaccinated against Leptospirosis, because it was originally thought they didn’t contract the disease, but s erological surveys have led to the conclusion that the cat can certainly be infected by leptospires ( André-Fontaine 1).

The clinical signs of Leptospirosis in a patient are hepatic and renal failure. The signs to look out for are lethargy, decreased temperature, decrease in eating, decrease in activity, vomiting, and significant decrease in weight. Severity of infections are related to the virulence of the organism, susceptibility of the host, and the affected host species, also diagnosis may be difficult during the early stages of the disease due to vague symptoms and increase in kidney and liver values having yet to occur (Khan 1).

Diagnosis is usually done by taking a blood test and looking at ALT and ALP levels, historical information, physical examination and confirmatory testing. Leptospirosis is best treated with penicillin, but often times for cost will be treated with Amoxicillin and Cloxacillin. Along with antibiotics and depending on the case, pain medication, such as Morphine, and subcutaneous or IV saline fluids are given.



André-Fontaine , Geneviève. “ Canine leptospirosis—Do we have a problem? ” Veterinary Microbiology. 117 (2006): 19-24.


Brown, Ken and Prescott, James. “ Leptospirosis in the family dog: a public health perspective.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 178 (2008): 399-401.


Khan S, Hassan M, Yasin G. Acute Leptospirosis in Dog- A case report. Internet Journal of Veterinary Medicine. 7 (2010): 4.


Rojas P, Monahan AM, Schuller S, Miller IS, Markey BK, Nally JE. “Detection and quantification of leptospires in urine of dogs: a maintenance host for the zoonotic disease leptospirosis.” European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 29 (2010): 1305-1309.