Rats are largely unpopular among people, mostly because they can carry leptospirosis, a cruel disease that can kill our dogs. Of course, pet rats are the exception, as those live in controlled environments and are vaccinated by their owners.
One of the most vital reasons to control rats is the imminent danger of leptospirosis – and this aspect shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also named Weil’s disease, the condition is caused by a lethal bacteria that spreads via the urine of infected animals — usually rats. It is a zoonotic disease, and that means it can also be spread to humans, as well as dogs, also by contact with the infected urine.
The Leptospira spirochete infection occurs in subtropical, tropical, and wet environments usually but due to migration, it can happen anywhere. Leptospira spirochetes – the bacteria incriminated are more prevalent in marshy and muddy areas which have stagnant surface water and are heavily frequented by wildlife.
It sounds scary – and it actually is. That’s why we think it is better that you educate yourself on the topic. And to facilitate that, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list with all there is to know about the condition and how to prevent it.
Leptospirosis in dogs
Dogs, active by nature, usually become infected with the bacteria either via direct contact with the rat urine or indirectly through the contaminated waters. Rats are incontinent animals, meaning that they pee wherever they travel, thus leaving a trail of urine along their paths.
And a dog that drinks from a puddle that has been contaminated by a rat is liable to pick up the bacteria in it, with possibly fatal results. Those pets that have been infected could then become carriers themselves, shedding the causing bacteria in their urine, especially if you leave your dogs to roam free and if they tend to interact with other pets.
The Leptospira interrogans bacteria penetrate the skin of the pet and spread through the weakened body by way of the bloodstream. Then, they spread throughout the entire body, reproducing especially in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, the pet’s eyes, and the reproductive system.
Most of the time, the liver or kidneys are infected – which can be fatal for dogs if the infection progresses because it will cause severe damage to these organs. Younger pets with a less developed immune system are at the highest risk for severe complications.
The truth is, it is not always evident whether your dog has contracted leptospirosis, because the disease is insidious and because the severity of the main symptoms varies and depends on the breed and, alternatively, on the strain of Leptospira. However, it is invariably fatal in severe cases.
The major symptoms include a continuously raised temperature, severe loss of appetite and weight loss, reluctance to move for the most part of the day, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as yellowing of the gums and skin – a thing called jaundice. If your pet is displaying two or more of these symptoms, take it to a vet as soon as possible.
Additionally, your furry friend might seem lethargic and might spend a lot of time in his or her favorite hiding spot. Other pets might refuse to drink water and play with their toys. They may occasionally shiver and urinate more than usual. The vet can also look for signs of dehydration and kidney failure or blood cells in the stool, and see if the pet presents with mild swelling of the lymph nodes and dark red speckled gums.
Do not delay boosters
Many veterinarians think that more people should need to raise awareness of the risk of this disease, as more and more pets have contracted leptospirosis in the last few years. They also suggest investing in a special product called the Lepto 4 booster that helps fortify the pet’s immune system.
This way, you can avoid intensive treatments, including intravenous fluid therapy. Leptospirosis is usually confirmed by serology – which is basically a blood test that can detect antibodies, so you need to go see a specialist and not treat the pet at home in case it develops the condition.
As a guarantee, your beloved companion won’t get another disease besides Leptospirosis, also buy an efficient flea spray for dogs, as fleas carry many deadly diseases themselves.
Treatment for Leptospirosis
Dogs with acute symptoms should be hospitalized – no question about that. Fluid therapy, as previously mentioned, will be the primary treatment, to reverse any effects of dehydration. But if your dog has been vomiting for a long period, an anti-vomiting drug may be administered.
In highly severe cases, a gastric tube can be used by vets to nourish your pet if its inability to eat or keep food down in its stomach continues. A blood transfusion can also be performed if your pet has been severely hemorrhaging.
Antibiotics will be prescribed only by your veterinarian because the type of antibiotic is dependent on the stage of infection. Penicillin can be used for initial infections, and tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones, or similar products will be prescribed for those severe cases we mentioned. Some types of antibiotics can have serious side effects that appear, especially those drugs that go deeper into the pet’s system to eliminate the infection.
Also, note at that the treatment is prescribed for at least four weeks, time in which you should restrict the dog’s time in nature or invest in some comfortable cold weather dog boots to restrict the number of bacterias he or she carries on the paws.
Living and management
Vaccination for the prevention of the leptospirosis is available in some areas of USA. Your vet can advise you on the availability and also on the usefulness of this vaccine. Another tip is to make sure to inspect the kennel before placing your dog in one – as those are usually a starting point for many new cases of infection.
While your furry friend is in the process of being treated, you will have to keep him or her isolated from kids, and other pets, and you’ll need to wear protective latex gloves when handling the pet in any way, or when eliminating fluid or waste products from your dog. And during the disease, we recommend buying premium dog food for sensitive stomachs, to avoid vomiting.