This Wintertime Disease Can Be Transmitted from Dogs to Humans

hike Photo by petesphotography via Getty

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease, meaning it can transfer from animals to humans. It is spread through the urine of infected animals and causes a wide range of symptoms, which, in severe cases, may result in death.

If you live in or visit a damp climate in the winter, you and your dog may be at risk for contracting this disease.

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Why Is Leptospirosis Common in the Winter?

Leptospires, the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis, does not do well in cold temperatures. It dries up in arid climates and dies in freezing weather. Why, then, is it common in the winter?

This bacteria thrives during the rainy season — from November to March. In certain parts of the United States, temperatures may seldom reach below freezing during this time while the rain piles on. Per the Center for Disease Control, Leptospires may be found in “floodwater, freshwater like rivers or streams, unsafe tap water, wet soil, or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals.” Simply put, the increase in rainwater equals an increase in Leptospires.

What Are the Signs of Leptospirosis?

According to the CDC, the signs of Leptospirosis in dogs or other pets “vary and are nonspecific.” The shortlist of symptoms includes:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Inability to have puppies

The CDC also notes that younger animals are more seriously affected than older animals. If your dog has recently been on a hike and begins exhibiting any of the symptoms above, they may have contracted Leptospirosis. Your vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics. More serious cases may require hospitalization. If you suspect your dog contracted this illness, seek veterinary care.

How Does Leptospirosis Spread from Dogs to Humans?

leptospirosis Courtesy of the CDC

Like with animals, Leptospirosis infects humans through the ingestion of contaminated urine. As seen in the graphic above, this can be through a cut or through the eyes, nose, or mouth. If your dog has Leptospirosis, be sure that you watch where they urinate. Lead them to a place away from where any humans or other dogs may wander until their infection has cleared. You can also disinfect your home frequently during the time of infection.

Ideally, you should try to avoid infection altogether by avoiding areas where Leptospires may be present. If you and your pup like to go for hikes, avoid bodies of water — even puddles.

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