DANGER?Dogs can pick up Weil’s disease by drinking from puddles or by walking or swimming in infected water.
Water-born Weil’s disease a risk to pets
Ask the Vet
Esther Van Luipen
Does your dog like to swim? Or do you live in a rural area? If the answer to either or both of these questions is yes, your dog is at risk of leptospirosis, also called Weil’s disease.
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria called leptospira, which is spread by contact with the urine of infected animals. The urine, which can go into water or soil, can be infectious for weeks to months. The bacteria can enter the body through the skin or mucous membranes.
If your pet has become infected, it most likely came into contact with infected animals or it might have become infected after drinking, walking or swimming in contaminated water.
The symptoms of an infection with leptospira are not very specific. Look out for your pet being ‘off form’. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the belly, not wanting to eat, excessive drinking, excessive bleeding, severe weakness or stiffness, severe muscle pain and jaundice. The symptoms can be very mild, but they can also be very severe to life threatening. In severe cases, leptospirosis is called Weil’s disease. Sometimes it can be so severe that the organs fail and the pet dies.
Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics and intravenous drips. However, depending on the severity of the case, there could be lasting organ damage.
What can you do to prevent this disease? Control the rodent population by placing mouse and rat traps in places where your pets can’t come into contact with them. Always provide your pet with fresh water and discourage them from drinking out of puddles or stagnant water.
Also, it is vital to get your pet vaccinated against Weil’s disease. The vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection, as there are many strains of leptospires (the bacteria that causes Weil’s disease) and the vaccine does not provide immunity against all of them, but it will protect your dog against the most prevalent strains.
Risk to humans
Weil’s disease is a zoonosis, which means that humans can contract the disease from an animal that has the disease. The way we contract the disease is exactly the same as the way our pets do: via the urine of infected animals. People can contract the disease via watersports, such as fishing, swimming in lakes or canoeing, but we can also contract it from our beloved pets – another reason to get your dog properly vaccinated.
Vaccination for Weil’s disease needs to be repeated every year, so it is also vitally important not to let the vaccination ‘lapse’. If you have a dog that likes to swim or drink from puddles be sure to mention it to your vet so that your pet is properly vaccinated.
Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. Feel free to contact her with any of your small-animal concerns on 094 9373955 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.