Incubation Period for Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospira interrogans sensu lato is the organism causing leptospirosis in dogs. The bacteria enter the blood stream and spread to organs, particularly the kidneys, liver and spleen. Some animals are able to fight them off in a matter of days without ever showing symptoms. In others, leptospirosis causes inflammation of the kidneys that leads to renal failure in a few weeks.

There are vaccinations for leptospirosis available. The vaccination is not considered a core vaccine, but if you worry about leptospira in your area, it may be a worthwhile vaccine to discuss with your veterinarian. The vaccine only lasts a year or two, so frequent boosters are necessary.

Ingestion of Leptospira

Before leptospira can begin incubation, they might first be introduced into the dog's bloodstream. The organisms cluster in the kidneys and can live there for weeks. When an infected animal urinates outside, they can get into water sources, such as puddles. If a dog drinks water from that puddle or licks urine off grass, leptospira enter that dog's body causing leptospirosis in dogs. Semen is another method in which leptospira can enter a dog's system.

Incubation Periods for Leptospirosis in Dogs

Incubation times for Leptospirosis can take anywhere from two days to three weeks from time of exposure. Some dogs will never show signs that they have the disease. With other infected dogs, symptoms include:

  • Chills

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Muscle pain

You usually see these signs appear within a week of the dog coming into contact with the leptospira. It's important to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Antibiotics can treat the disease before it has a chance to damage the kidneys or liver.

As the disease progresses, symptoms change and often worsen. After a week or two, you may notice:

  • Dark urine

  • Lack of appetite

  • Low urine output

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

It's important to seek veterinary care immediately because some dogs can develop kidney failure from the inflammation caused by leptospirosis in dogs. If the liver is damaged, you may notice your pet becoming jaundiced. Check the gums and skin for yellowing. The sooner your dog is on antibiotics, the better the chances your pet will heal. Treatment for leptospirosis include antibiotics, IV fluids to prevent dehydration and medications to control vomiting.

Once shed from your pet, the leptospira bacteria doesn't die immediately. In a water source, like a pond, the disease can live for weeks, months or even years if the temperatures are right. Extreme cold will kill off the bacteria, but in warmer climates, there may always be a risk.

Risk Factors for Leptospirosis in Dogs

Leptospirosis is dangerous in young puppies and dogs with immune system deficiencies. Preventing your pet from dirty water is one of the best ways to prevent the disease.

Once a dog has had leptospirosis, it can take months for the organisms to completely leave the kidneys. Every time your pet urinates, he's spreading the leptospira where another animal could contract the disease. If you know your dog was infected, limit where he can urinate and rinse those areas with bleach to kill the bacteria. This is the best way to keep the disease from returning or spreading to other pets.