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Can My Dog Get Lepto?

The answer is YESSSS, in my opinion. Leptospirosis (lepto) is a highly contagious bacteria that penetrates the mucous membranes or open wounds of our furry canine friends, as well as, other animals. It can be preventable by vaccinating your dog yearly. Vaccination is common in dogs because they are most likely to get lepto from drinking infected water. However, cats can also get lepto by feasting on an infested mouse, but this is very rare.

Where does Lepto come from?

Lepto can be found in stagnant water, such as puddles and ponds. This bacteria is carried by rodents and is transferred to others through their urine. So whether your pet hunts mice, loves to swim, or chugs water in their environmental surroundings like mine does, it is worth preventing this sickly disease.

Working in the emergency department of a specialty animal hospital, I have seen so many lepto cases. I can assure you it is here in Upstate NY and rarely shows mercy. Veterinarians typically suspect lepto in an animal when they present to the ER with anorexia, fever, jaundiced skin (yellow tint), vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

When any animal presents to us in the ER, we typically draw blood and urine to get a full workup on what is going on clinically. We had a beautiful 14 year old spayed female Standard Poodle who was sweet, but not acting her self and showing similar symptoms as mentioned before. We triaged her and collected her urine until the unimaginable happened. Don’t worry, she’s alive and well to this day. I just got sprayed by her possibly infectious urine…

Story Time

As a veterinary assistant, I helped a veterinary technician complete a cystocentesis (extracting urine from the patients bladder via needle syringe). This is the most sterile method of urine collection for testing. When the urine was pulled from the bladder, it was dark in color and smelled fouled. I removed the needle from the syringe and started to pour it into our sample tubes. Out of nowhere, my hand slipped and pushed on the plunger of the syringe and sprayed that nasty urine all over my neck and chest. Unfortunately for me, lepto is zoonotic. This means that it can be transferred between animals and humans. If it wasn’t for the mask I was wearing due to COVID-19 requirements, it would of been all up in my mouth. I stared at my peers defeated and didn’t think anything of it until the veterinarian on the case requested a Leptospirosis panel.

I quickly cringed and ran to the staff bathroom. Thank goodness for the donated scrub tops in our locker room because it was the one day I didn’t have my extra set (I should of learned my lesson with the amount of times patients have peed on me). I washed myself, my bralette and cursed the negative thoughts out of my head. What if I get lepto? Am I going to get in trouble for having to write another incident report? Am I going to die? Hospitals suck right now, I’d hate to stay in one. What is up with 2021?!? I continued on with my day until it was time to let Human Resources know and was pushed to go to urgent care right then and there…

Because we couldn’t get the Leptospirosis panel results until 3-5 business days, I had to get a course of antibiotics. Lepto can cause a serious blood infection.When left untreated it causes kidney and liver damage, sometimes even death.

Lesson learned: use an extra needle to directly puncture the sample tube and allow the vacutainer test tube to do the work. Also, bring an extra bra to work.

For now, I wait in misery unable to enjoy a whiskey ginger all thanks to my 10-day course of preventative antibiotics.


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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2021 Angie Gomez

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