Dear Pet Parents,

As reported on local news stations and supported by our recent experience, there has been a rising number of dogs infected with Leptospirosis in the Chicagoland area.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by the urine of infected wildlife  – especially opossums, racoons and rats. Dogs acquire this infection by drinking contaminated water (puddles or stagnant water) or ingesting contaminated soil or plant material.  It can also be transmitted by infected urine through the mucosa of the nose, eyes and open wounds on the skin  This bacterial infection can cause severe, life- threatening liver and kidney disease.  Uncommonly, it can also cause respiratory disease.

The initial clinical symptoms can be highly variable in presentation from fever, lethargy and loss of appetite to increased water intake and urination, vomiting , diarrhea and jaundice.

If this disease is diagnosed early and treated aggressively with appropriate medical therapy,  up to 80% of the dogs will survive. Unfortunately, permanent damage to their kidneys may be a lingering issue in some affected dogs. Dogs that are at higher risk for acquiring this disease are small sized or/and  under one or over ten years of age.

There are over 200 potential pathogenic strains of Leptospirosis. To help prevent the disease and greatly reduce mortality, a vaccine against four of the most common strains of Leptospirosis is available.

Initially, the Leptospirosis  vaccine is given to dogs as a series of two vaccines separated by 2-4 weeks. There afterwards, a booster vaccine is given yearly. This is a core vaccine at AMCOC – meaning we recommend and administer to almost every canine patient seen at our hospital.

Please contact AMCOC or check out your Pet’s Portal to make sure your pet is up to date on their Leptospirosis vaccine. If your pet is not current, contact us immediately at (773) 525-3353 to schedule this vaccination appointment.

Fortunately, it is believed that cats are naturally highly resistant to Leptospirosis and are rarely symptomatic. Outdoor cats can acquire Leptospirosis after eating infected prey. There are no vaccines available for cats.

Leptospirosis is zoonotic – meaning contagious to humans. For a few weeks Leptospirosis infected dogs can shed the virus in their urine and it is a potential source of infection to humans. People, however, are more likely to acquire this infection by being exposed to the same contaminated source as the infected  dog was  – ie. contaminated water while swimming. To minimize all risk of potential infection, we recommend wearing gloves when exposed to your pet’s urine and washing hands frequently.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us at (773) 525-3353.

Be proactive with your pet’s health.  Vaccinate and do not allow your dog to drink water out of park fountains, bowls left outside of storefronts, and puddles on the streets.

Be well and safe.

Donna Solomon, DVM and Staff of Animal Medical Center of Chicago.

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