My veterinarian and I were baffled. The dog continued to get worse and began to dehydrate. He lay curled in a ball and had a slight fever. We started IV fluid therapy, but my vet had no idea what he was looking at or how to treat it. We tried a series of lab tests which included a tick disease panel and fungal panels. All came back negative.
|In desperation, I started searching the internet for any illness I could find with these symptoms. One thing started popping up over and over, and it was leptospirosis. However, all the sites I read talked about elevated liver enzymes, which did not show up in this dog’s blood panel results.|
|Then, another one of my dogs became sick with the same symptoms. I went back to researching leptospirosis and found that there were nine different strains, and two of them did not affect the liver, but had a delayed reaction in attacking the kidneys. While the first dog’s kidney levels were fine, I had my vet re-test them. And there it was — this dog had elevated BUN, creatinine and phosphorus.|
|We quickly took a blood sample from both dogs and sent them off for a lepto titer. This test took several days, so we went ahead and started both dogs on Penicillin which is the treatment of choice for lepto. We continued the IV therapy for both dogs, as leptospirosis in any form causes dehydration. Re-hydrating an affected dog is paramount for treatment.|
|The tests came back positive for both dogs for a strain of leptospirosis called Grippotyphosa. It also showed another strain called Pomona, but often one or more strains will show up as a cross positive. It is the highest titer number which is the strain that is involved. My veterinarian was shocked, but I was relieved to know that we now had a diagnosis and a protocol for a treatment course.|
|I hope this article provides you with information about leptospirosis, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Most veterinarians are familiar with the two most common forms of leptospirosis, but the newer strains are often missed in diagnosis and simply seen as chronic renal failure. With the correct diagnosis, leptospirosis is not only treatable, but treatment is highly successful.|
|What is Leptospirosis?|
It is a bacterium, most commonly found in urine from affected animals. Dogs can get this from drinking stagnant water or licking areas where affected animals have urinated. Male dogs are more commonly affected than females (probably due to their habits). Also, dogs with lowered immune systems are also vulnerable. Lepto is most common in the spring and fall, or during a rainy season. It typically can’t survive when temperatures are above 80 degrees or when it freezes.
|Since I live in Texas, summers are too hot for these bacteria to survive. Both of my dogs contracted lepto in late October. After careful observation, we realized they had probably gotten this disease from the squirrels in our yard. Rats and other wildlife can also carry this disease.|
|It takes 4 to 12 days from transmission of this disease to the dog showing symptoms.|
|Symptoms of Leptospirosis|
First symptoms are usually lethargy, minor fever and shivering. This fever can increase to 104 or 105. The dog will refuse to eat and may show painful joints or muscles. Some may get reddening or infection of the eyes. Two types of leptospirosis known as Pomona and icterohaemorrhagiae will show elevated liver enzymes and possibly symptoms of jaundice.
|But in the two strains that are less common, kidney blood levels will elevate along with the symptoms of frequent urination and increased water consumption. These are known as L. canicola and L. grippotyphosa. Grippotyphosa was once thought to be uncommon, but in 1998 several dogs became ill in Long lsland, NY. Almost 150 were found infected with the grippotyphosa strain. It was thought this strain was isolated to the NE, but now it has been reported throughout the United States and Canada.|
This is done with a blood sample sent off to a laboratory for a leptospirosis titer. This will measure the amount of leptospirosis antibodies present in the blood sample along with identifying the correct strain. Note that lepto titers often will not increase until the dog is in the recovery phase. If you test when the dog first becomes ill, the results may not be accurate, so when lepto is suspected, it is best to begin treatment with penicillin and fluids immediately, then confirm the diagnosis with a titer test a week or two later.
The first action is IV therapy. This is needed to take care of the severe dehydration, as well as keep the kidneys functioning well. Both of my dogs were on IV therapy for five to seven days. Penicillin is the antibiotic of choice. Generally treatment is recommended for three weeks. Doxycycline is followed for another two to three weeks, as this will stop the bacteria from being shed and transmitted in the dog’s urine.
Some modes of prevention are to make sure that any areas that the dogs are kept are drained well and that there is no standing water. Protect water bowls and buckets from squirrels and other wildlife. At present, there are vaccinations for four strains of leptospirosis.
|However, these vaccinations are only good for about four months, and the lepto vaccine does have many side effects, which include anaphylactic shock. Due to the necessity of repeated vaccinations and its serious side effects, the Kansas State University of Veterinary Medicine no longer supports vaccinating for this disease. They state:|
|1) The disease has become quite rare in the urban dog.|
|2) A more important reason is the frequency with which we see hives, facial swelling and even life-threatening vaccination reactions called anaphylaxis when we give vaccine “cocktails” that contain leptospirosis bacteria. The “L” in DHLP, the most common vaccine cocktail, stands for leptospirosis. These reactions can be very mild or severe enough to cause death. These reactions do not occur on the initial vaccination but do increasingly on succeeding vaccinations.|
|3) The third reason is that the vaccines against leptospirosis are not that effective in preventing the disease and may actually facilitate carrier states.|
|Given this information, it would be up to the dog owner to decide the best option for their dogs. I personally have decided not to vaccinate, and instead I watch for symptoms and keep myself familiar with the symptoms of leptospirosis. I know that it is treatable with penicillin, but it must be caught quickly to make treatment effective. I cannot make this recommendation for everyone, and each of us has to make the best decision and responsible choice for where we live, the health of our dogs and of course, to not spread this disease to other dogs. Do note that leptospirosis is most common in spring and fall, so vaccinations would need to be made accordingly.|
|Also, if one dog has it in your home, chances are that all of your dogs are affected. They may not show the symptoms, but they are most likely carriers of this disease. Since I own 15 dogs, it means I had to treat the rest of my dogs with penicillin and then follow up with doxycycline. This was not inexpensive, but certainly necessary to keep all the dogs healthy, but also to make sure they weren’t carrying this disease to spread to other dogs. Note that vaccinations do not cover all strains of lepto, so even if your dogs have been vaccinated recently, they can still get the disease.|
|Here are some links to web sites with more information on leptospirosa in dogs:|
|For support of the dogs during recovery, EPA fish oil given at 1,000 mg per ten pounds of body weight is suggested, as it is renal supportive. Berte’s Immune Blend would also be helpful for the antioxidants, digestive enzymes and acidophilus.|
|COQ10 given at one mg per pound of body weight is also important to help bring down an increased creatinine level. B complex is also suggested to help support the kidneys, although this is already in the Berte’s Immune Blend.|
|For more information on diet and supplements that are helpful for a dog in acute renal failure, check my May 2004 article.|
|QUIZ QUESTIONS FOR FEBRUARY|
(Answers follow below)
1. Vitamin D is not common in many foods, but it can be found in all these foods except:
|2. BSE is found in what parts of the body of the cow:|
A. Brain and spinal cord
B. Muscle meat, including heart
C. Organ meat (liver, kidneys, etc.)
|3) For dogs, a vegetarian diet would lack all but which of the following nutrients?|
B. Vitamin A
C. Vitamin B-12
|4) Which of these nutrients enhances iron absorption?|
A. Vitamin C
D. Soy protein
|5) Good supplements recommended for support of the liver include all these except:|
A. Vitamin E
B. Salmon Oil
D. Milk Thistle
|ANSWERS TO QUIZ QUESTIONS:|
C. Although milk is fortified with vitamin D, other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, do not have vitamin D, either added or naturally.
A. BSE (mad cow disease) only affects the brain and spinal cord. To the best of our knowledge, dogs cannot contract this disease at all, although a few cats have been shown to be infected.
B. Actually, this is a bit of a trick question, since even vitamin A, while present in plants (in the form of beta-carotene), may well be deficient in a vegetarian diet that does not include eggs and dairy, especially since the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A may not be something that all dogs do well (and cats cannot do at all).
|Taurine and l-carnitine are found only in animal tissue. In that past, it has been thought that these were not essential to dogs, but new research is finding that at least some dogs develop DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) when they do not get enough of these nutrients.|
|Vitamin B-12 is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products, but not in plants.|
|In addition to a vegetarian diet being low in calcium, the phytates in grains blocks calcium absorption, requiring a higher amount of calcium intake in order to meet requirements.|
Note that vegsoc.org recommends a vegetarian diet, but their diet includes eggs and dairy products.
“In addition, canines can make vitamin A from beta-carotene, but the extent to which they do depend on age, breed, and health.”
A. While Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, bran, fiber and soy protein all inhibit iron absorption.
“These vegetarians are susceptible to iron deficiency anemia because they are not only missing the more readily absorbed iron from animal flesh, they are also likely to be eating many foods with constituents that inhibit iron absorption–soy protein, bran, and fiber, for instance.”
C. Rimadyl, which can cause liver damage in some dogs with extended use.
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