Standing floodwaters increase leptospirosis risk for dogs

Bacteria can cause liver, kidney failure
Standing floodwaters increase leptospirosis risk for dogs

The remaining floodwaters are allowing a bacteria called leptospirosis to survive longer and sicken more dogs.

“The risk is increased at this time of year but, now, with all of the flooding and all of the increased rain that we’ve had, the risk has gone up more because there’s a lot of standing water,” said Dr. Julia Bates, a veterinarian.

Bates said the bacteria commonly known as lepto is always present, but it is more prevalent in the fall. It is transmitted through rodent urine so it could be anywhere, not just in water.

She said Madison Veterinary Specialists usually sees a handful of confirmed lepto cases each year, but the office has already seen that many in just the last couple of weeks.

Dogs that ingest the bacteria will show early signs of vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.

“If it’s affecting the kidneys, they may start drinking a lot more water and urinating a lot more frequently, in much larger amounts. If it’s affecting the liver then you may notice that they become acutely jaundiced where the whites of their eyes or their skin becomes very yellow,” said Bates.

The disease is treatable if caught early, but it could become deadly.

Bates recommends owners watch out for symptoms in their dogs and get them vaccinated for lepto, especially this year.

“It won’t definitively protect them from having the disease, but it certainly will make it much less severe, and probably less likely to be life-threatening,” she said.

Lepto is not on the list of common vaccinations so many dog owners don’t request it.

“Of course, they’ve been vaccinated for everything that the vet has suggested, but they have not been vaccinated for lepto, to my knowledge. It’s probably something I’m going to email my vet about,” said dog owner Rick Gundermann.

Humans can also contract lepto, but Public Health of Dane County said no cases have been reported because of floodwaters.