Vet Stuff with Dr. Steph

Leptospirosis: How spring puddles can be dangerous to your pet!

By January 9, 2020 No Comments

Let me tell you about Dasher. Dasher is a very playful, energetic, beautiful 3-year-old German Shepard.  

She has stage 3 kidney failure.

Last fall, Dasher was brought to Gateway Pet Hospital for lethargy and decreased appetite. Blood work revealed a severe elevation in her kidney values.  Testing confirmed that Dasher had an infectious disease called Leptospirosis (aka Lepto).  The most likely source? Puddle drinking. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease.  It is shed in the urine of wildlife such as skunks and raccoons. Dogs contract leptospirosis by coming into contact with this urine, most commonly by drinking from standing water or eating wet grass.  In dogs, it usually attacks the liver or kidneys and can lead to organ failure. Antibiotics are effective in treating the bacteria, but the organ damage can occur rapidly, and often causes considerable disease before the diagnosis is made.  Symptoms are usually very non-specific and may include decreased energy, decreased appetite, increased drinking and urinating, vomiting or jaundice (yellow appearance to eyes and skin).

Leptospirosis is common in this part of Ontario. 

Dasher was admitted to Gateway Pet Hospital and placed on intravenous fluids.  Her wonderful owners were committed to her recovery, even when things were dire and it looked like she might not make it.  She stayed in hospital on intravenous fluids for a whopping 17 days; Next, she required a feeding tube for a month before she voluntarily started eating and drinking.  Finally, her kidneys were able to work well enough to maintain hydration.  

Life is still a bit of a struggle for Dasher’s family.  She needs to drink a lot of water because her kidneys are not able to concentrate urine anymore.  She struggles with incontinence and urinary accidents because of this. She needs to stay on a special high-quality kidney diet that is restricted in protein and phosphorus.  She is prone to urinary tract infections and requires frequent blood and urine tests to ensure we stay ahead of any problems. She is probably functioning on less than 25% of normal kidney function, so it is important to keep the remaining 25% healthy!

Leptospirosis is a preventable disease. The leptospirosis vaccine is very effective against it.  The vaccination needs to be administered EVERY YEAR, as immunity from vaccination is short-lived.  Please make sure your dog is up to date!

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