Diagnosing Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis in dogs refers to a family of related infections caused by a group of bacteria called leptospira. These bacteria can be passed between dogs, humans and other animals as well, although they rarely cause infection in cats. Dogs tend to experience internal organ infections as a result of leptospirosis, and the disease can cause extensive kidney and liver damage if left untreated. This disease is a serious and potentially fatal one, and it is important to keep a vigilant watch over your dog if he develops any of the symptoms of leptospirosis. Diagnosing the disease accurately and quickly is the key to saving your dog from permanent health damages and, potentially, death.

Recognize the Symptoms

It is impossible to diagnose leptospirosis in dogs if you do not recognize the symptoms of the disease and take action immediately. Leptospirosis varies in severity according to each individual animal, the progression of the bacterial infection and the particular strain of bacteria that affects your pet. However, the following symptoms generally characterize this disease:

  • Shivering
  • Hypothermia
  • Depression
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle aches, often shown by a change in gait, refusal to get up or difficulty sitting or lying down
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

The first step toward diagnosing leptospirosis in your pet is to recognize the danger upon seeing one or more of the symptoms listed above. Take your pet to a veterinarian for further examination and testing.

Diagnosing Leptospirosis in Dogs

Once you present your pet to the veterinarian for further analysis, it is important to provide him with a full log of all of your pet's symptoms, as well as their date of onset and progression in severity. This information will prove helpful for him in ruling out other possible diseases and making the diagnosis as quickly as possible.

If your vet suspects leptospirosis as the cause of your pet's health problems after he conducts a thorough physical examination and medical history check, he will proceed by taking a urine sample and a blood sample. Dogs that have leptospirosis occasionally pass leptospira bacteria through their urine. By analyzing your dog's urine for traces of these bacteria, your vet can help to diagnose his condition.

A blood test is the single most effective way of diagnosing leptospirosis. After he takes a sample of your pet's blood, the veterinarian will order antibody and bacteria count tests from the laboratory. These tests serve to trace your pet's blood for signs of the leptospira bacteria as well as your dog's immune system response in the form of antibodies. The specific type of antibody in the blood can help to indicate which strain of leptospirosis is afflicting your dog.

Once the veterinarian has made a diagnosis, he will be able to offer you suggestions as to how best to treat your pet's infection. Typically, a combination of methods can help to address the symptoms of leptospirosis and the cause of the disease itself. Maintaining your pet's good health depends upon your prompt recognition of the disease as well as a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.