Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by Leptospira interrogans which is a member of the spirochetes family. Over 200 serogroups have been described in different species but there are only a couple that are commonly detected in Sydney with the most common serogroup being Copenhageni. This disease is zoonotic meaning infection can spread across species (including humans) and is a notifiable disease.
Leptospirosis occurs through exposure of animals to contaminated water sources, soil and food. Leptospires can survive for months in suitable environmental conditions which include stagnant/slow-moving warm water. Reservoir hosts (usually rats) allow for continued contamination of the environment and Sydney’s rat population is heavily infected. Any dog that has contact with rats, mice or stagnant water could be exposed to this disease.
Can be very non-specific and vary based on the body systems involved but may include:
- High body temperatures
- Lack of urination
- Difficulty breathing.
- Bleeding from the gums.
Diagnosis and treatment
The only way to diagnose Leptospirosis is a specific blood and urine test performed during the first 7-10 days of infection.
Treatment is based on the organ systems affected and will likely include in-hospital supportive care and antibiotics. Unfortunately only 50% of diagnosed Leptospirosis cases survive the infection.
Vaccination is available for two serogroups in Australia and is recommended for those animals which are “at risk”. This vaccine is given in addition to their core vaccinations (in our hospitals case this is a C5 vaccination).
Dogs should also be kept away from rats and stagnant water sources.
Humans can contract the infection through contaminated water sources (e.g. water spots) or direct transmission (e.g. infected wildlife/domestic animals). If you are concerned you have been in contact with an infected pet please speak to your general practitioner.