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Leptospirosis: Dog-killing disease can spread to humans, but it's easy to prevent

Posted at 8:56 PM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-10 21:57:55-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Concern among pet owners is growing after a potentially deadly bacteria was reported in parts of central Indiana.

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacterial infection which can lead to severe kidney and liver damage in dogs and can be spread to humans. If left untreated, the disease can be deadly.

RELATED | Dog-killing bacteria reported in central Indiana

Here’s what you need to know to protect your pet from Leptospirosis.

Spreading Leptospirosis:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria are spread through urine and other body fluids of infected animals. It is most commonly spread in areas with standing water or wet ground and can last up to weeks or months in the water and soil after contamination.

The bacteria can enter the body through the nose, mouth, eyes or through “a break in the skin.” Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection.

Your pet could pick up the disease from something as simple as walking through an infected stream and then licking their paws. 

CDC | Risk of exposure for humans

Signs & Symptoms of Leptospirosis:

It can take up to 21 days for symptoms of Leptospirosis to appear, and some infected pets may exhibit no symptoms at all.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain

Leptospirosis generally affects younger animals more seriously than older animals.
CDC | Signs & symptoms in humans

Treating Leptospirosis:

If caught early enough, Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, and the risk of severe organ damage is minimal. 

In severe cases, the CDC says dialysis or water therapy may be required. 

CDC | Treatment for humans

Preventing Leptospirosis:

  • As with any disease that affects animals, vaccination is suggested. The vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection, however, because there are many strains of the bacteria and the vaccine does not provide immunity against all strains. It is also not one of the common "core" vaccinations and may not be included in your pets annual visit. 
  • Rodents are one of the most common carriers of the disease, keeping infestations under control can help keep your pets safe. 
  • Keeping your pet out of any standing water that could be contaminated with animal urine is also key to reducing the risk of your pet becoming infected. 

CDC | Prevention in Humans

As with any illness always consult your physician if you see drastic changes in your dogs health or behavior. 

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