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Leptospirosis: What Pet Parents Need to Know



The Rise of Leptospirosis in Arizona

Leptospirosis outbreaks in Arizona have been on the rise in recent months. While Leptospirosis is more common in warm climates with high annual rainfall, it can occur anywhere, even in the desert. Here’s what you need to know to keep your pets healthy and safe:


Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria, which lives in soil and water. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread from animals to people. With Leptospirosis on the rise in Arizona, it’s crucial to understand the causes and symptoms of this disease to keep both you and your furry friend safe.


As cases of Leptospirosis continue to rise in Arizona, it’s important for pet owners to be aware of the potential risks. As the weather cools off in Arizona, more dog owners will be taking their canine companions along to explore the great outdoors. Even if you don’t take your pet on hikes or to lakes, exposure to other dogs that are outdoors can put your beloved pet at risk. Common risk factors for dogs exposed to or that have contracted Leptospirosis may include:

  • Exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams
  • Roaming on rural properties
  • Exposure to a wild animal or farm animal species
  • Contact with rodents or other dogs


Dogs can become infected if mucous membranes (or skin with any wound, such as a cut or scrape) come into contact with the following:

  • Infected urine
  • Urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding
  • A bite from an infected animal
  • Eating infected tissues or carcasses
  • Leptospirosis can also be passed through the placenta from the mother dog to the puppies, although this occurrence is rare.


Common symptoms of Leptospirosis in dogs may include:

  • Fever, shivering
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Lethargy or reluctance to move
  • Increased thirst
  • Changes in frequency or amount of urination
  • Dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes)

Painful inflammation within the eyes Leptospirosis may cause bleeding disorders that can lead to blood-tinged vomit, urine, stool or saliva; nosebleeds; and pinpoint red spots (which may be visible on the gums and other mucous membranes or on light-colored skin). Dogs with Leptospirosis can also develop severe lung disease and are at risk of developing swollen legs (from fluid accumulation) or accumulating excess fluid in their chest or abdomen. This zoonotic disease can even cause kidney failure with or without liver failure being present.


Vaccines can help prevent most kinds of Leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccinations are recommended for at-risk dogs. Your AZPetVet veterinary team can work with you to help protect your pet against Leptospirosis and other diseases. Find a location near you.


Leptospirosis is typically treated using antibiotics, but each specific case may vary. Treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good. However, there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage. Although an infected pet dog presents a low risk of infection for you and your family, there is still some risk. If your dog has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, take the following precautions to protect yourself:

  • Administer antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Avoid contact with your dog’s urine
  • If your dog urinates in your home, quickly clean the area with a household disinfectant, and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with the urine.
  • Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access
  • Wash your hands after handling your pet

As cases of Leptospirosis continue to rise in Arizona, it’s essential to understand the risks, symptoms, and treatment around this disease. Knowing the prevention steps and signs will help give you peace of mind while you and your pup explore the vast Arizona wilderness.

[disclaimer] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.