Treating Leptospirosis in Dogs with Penicillin

Leptospirosis in dogs is a potentially fatal disease if left untreated. It's important to know what Leptospirosis is and the most effective method of treatment for your pet.

Leptospirosis Infection

Leptospirosis is one of two "spirochete" organisms (small, spiral organisms) that can infect pets (the other being the organism causing Lyme disease). Leptospirosis can be spread and carried by a wide variety of animals including livestock, dogs, cats, rats, horses, raccoons and humans. It transfers through ingestion of infected cells/tissues (one animal eating another), bite wounds, urine and other similar means. Leptospirosis affects the kidneys and liver, and can lead to death if not treated. Symptoms include weight loss, fever, lethargy, depression, muscle/joint aches and pains, jaundice, diarrhea, blood in the urine and excessive thirst.

Vaccinations against Leptospirosis

Puppies can be given a vaccination along with their routine shots for distemper and others. Vaccines don't offer entire immunity, however, as there are many different strands of leptospirosis. Vaccines will help form the antibodies capable of better fighting off the disease should your dog contract it.

Treating with Penicillin

Treating leptospirosis is not usually a difficult process. Penicillin is the most common form of treatment, as leptospirosis does not have an antibiotic resistance. Penicillin is one of a few antibiotics used in humans as well as dogs, and you will not be able to obtain it without a prescription from your vet. Never give your dog penicillin that has been prescribed for a human.

Treat your dog even if no symptoms are present. Not all dogs display many symptoms or become ill with leptospirosis. If you know your pet has it - for example, through routine checkups - be certain to treat them immediately. Leptospirosis is very contagious; you can catch it from your dog, and there's no guarantee it won't make you sick even though your dog seems fine. Since leptospirosis is easily contracted even through contact with urine, take precautions when cleaning up after your pet.

Side Effects of Penicillin

As with most medications, side effects can and do occur. Some of penicillin's side effects include:

  • Complications within the digestive system
  • Fungi
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea

There is always a risk that your dog is allergic to penicillin. If an allergic reaction occurs, it could potentially be life-threatening. If you notice your dog having problems breathing, seek veterinarian treatment immediately. In more severe cases, a dog can go into shock.

Taking the Medication

Pills don't typically taste good to dogs, so try disguising it in a little bit of peanut butter to get him or her to eat it, or wrap it up in a small piece of meat.

Penicillin and any other antibiotics are not effective unless given for the entire duration prescribed. When the dog starts looking and feeling better in a few days, you may think there's no reason to continue treatment, but this is not the case. The infection is still present and has a very high risk of popping back up if you stop administering antibiotics too soon.

While your dog is on medication, continue to take care in handling him. Use latex gloves and have him urinate on the back patio or sidewalk, so that the area can be disinfected with bleach. Leptospirosis is spread easily through urine, and you don't want other dogs to catch it, or risk infecting yourself.