Leptospirosis is an infectious illness that can occur in various animals among them humans, rodents, wildlife, and dogs. In dogs, the disease is caused by the bacterial spirochetes which they acquire when Leptospira interrogans a subspecies of spirochetes that penetrates the skin of the animal and spreads throughout the body by using the bloodstream (Andre-Fontaine 502). L. Pomona and L. grippotyphosa bacteria are the most common subspecies members in dogs. This paper will discuss the transmission, clinical signs, diagnosis, how the diagnosis is made, the course of treatment and the nature of the drugs used.
Transmission of Leptospirosis in Dogs
Although there are over 225 known strains of bacteria Leptospira worldwide, only about seven have been shown to affect dogs and the two most common being Leptospira canicola and Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae (Hennebelle, Sykes and Foley 738). The Leptospira bacteria are mainly carried by rodents such as a rat, but they can also be hosted by other animals including mammals like humans (Koizumi et al., 635). Additionally recovered or infected carrier dogs can also act as a source of this bacteria. Nevertheless, the most important means of transmission of Leptospirosis in dogs is the ingestion of rodent- contaminated waste or infected urine (Koizumi et al., 630). However, Leptospira bacteria can also penetrate the skin of the dog when it is damaged, or it is too thin. For example, when dogs swim or fall into the contaminated water, the bacteria might penetrate the skin infecting them with the disease. Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream of the dog, it takes twelve days before the first clinical signs emerge, that is the incubation period. The bacteria spread to various types of tissues and even though some bacteria may be cleared by the immune system, some may hide-out in organs such as the kidneys.
Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis
Majority of dogs with mild Leptospirosis usually show less to no clinical signs. Clinical signs of Leptospirosis are highly dependent on the health and age of the dog, virulence of a certain species of the bacteria and the environmental factors surrounding the bacteria (Tangeman and Littman 1320). Young dogs are more prone to this kind of infection. Some of the most common signs of leptospirosis in dogs include pain in the eyes as a result of inflammation, yellowing of the mucous and skin membrane (jaundice), lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, changes in the amount or frequency of urination, increased thirst, reluctance to move, muscle tenderness, shivering and fever (Andre-Fontaine 502). Additionally, dogs may develop kidney failure and several severe lung infections causing the animal to have difficulty in breathing. Other signs include blood in saliva, urine, and vomit. Swollen legs and nosebleeds are also common signs in leptospirosis.
Since the clinical signs of leptospirosis are inconstant and can be mixed up easily with other dog illnesses, it can be hard to conduct a conclusive diagnosis. Diagnosis is mainly made by examining the manifestation of Leptospira bacteria in various samples for example in urine. Additionally, finding an increased level of antibodies related to Leptospira bacteria can be used since it shows there is an immune response against this kind of foreign materials (Hennebelle, Sykes, and Foley 734). According to (Ellis) taking blood samples during the recovery period and infection and showing an increase in antibodies to Leptospira in the blood, serum is supportive of the diagnosis (132). A single test that finds a Leptospira antibody does not mean that the animal has leptospirosis because even infections that are not severe may present results with the high antibody ("Leptospirosis In Dogs - Generalized Conditions - Veterinary Manual"). Also, various laboratories and radiographs can help in such situations since they give sure and credible results.
How to Diagnose a Dog
Since leptospirosis is a zoonotic infection, a veterinarian will be extra careful when handling the dog and will advise the owner to be cautious. All the body fluids from the dog will be handled carefully since it is biologically hazardous and hence the wearing of protective gloves will be necessary (petMD). This fluid can include vomit, post-abortion discharge, semen or urine among others.
A thorough history of the dog's health should be given mostly the possible incidents, recent activities, and history of symptoms leading to the persistence of the illness (petMD). Correct history will allow the veterinarian to have an idea of the extent of the infection and more so the organs that might be currently affected. After the history is given, the veterinarian will request an antibody urine test, electrolyte panel, urinalysis, blood count and chemical blood profile (Kikuti et al., 125). This will help in confirming if the infection is leptospirosis.
Course of Treatment
Acute leptospirosis should be treated using fluid therapy to counter any effects of dehydration (petMD). If a dog has been vomiting for a while, drugs such as antiemetic should be used, and if the dog has been undergoing severe hemorrhaging, a blood transfusion may be necessary. However, antibiotics are the most recommended and depending on the stage different types will be given. For initial stages, penicillins can be used, but they are unable to eliminate the bacteria when it reaches a carrier stage. Fluoroquinolones, Tetracyclines among other similar antibiotics can be prescribed for four weeks (Koizumi et al., 631). Some strong medicines such as the ones that go deep to treat infections can have some serious side effects hence it necessary for the owner to read all warnings and instructions on the drugs.
Description of a Drug
Drug name: Amoxicillin
Active ingredients: Amoxicillin trihydrateDosages: 5-10mg every 12 to 24 hours
Precaution/storage: Should not be used in dogs that are penicillin-hypersensitive
Adverse effects: diarrhea, vomiting, and Nausea
Presentation: Pills or liquid suspensions ("Leptospirosis In Dogs - Generalized Conditions - Veterinary Manual.")
"Leptospirosis In Dogs - Generalized Conditions - Veterinary Manual." Veterinary Manual. N.p., 2018. Web. 5 Apr. 2018.
Andre-Fontaine, G. "Diagnosis algorithm for leptospirosis in dogs: disease and vaccination effects on the serological results." Vet Rec 172.19 (2013): 502.
Ellis, William A. "Animal leptospirosis." Leptospira and Leptospirosis. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2015. 99-137.
Hennebelle, Janemarie H., Jane E. Sykes, and Janet Foley. ""Risk factors associated with leptospirosis in dogs from Northern California: 20012010."" Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 14.10 (2014): 733-739.
Kikuti, M., Langoni, H., Nobrega, D. N., Correa, A. P. F. L., Ullmann, L. S. "Occurrence and risk factors associated with canine leptospirosis." Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases 18.1 (2012): 124-127.
Koizumi, Nobuo, et al. "Molecular and serological investigation of Leptospira and leptospirosis in dogs in Japan." Journal of medical microbiology 62.4 (2013): 630-636.
petMD, LLC. "Bacterial Infection (Leptospirosis) In Dogs | Petmd." Petmd.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 5 Apr. 2018.
Tangeman, Lindsay E., and Meryl P. Littman. "Clinicopathologic and atypical features of naturally occurring leptospirosis in dogs: 51 cases (20002010)." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 243.9 (2013): 1316-1322.
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