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Everything You Need to Know About Leptospirosis In Small Dogs

Published on: December 21, 2022  |  Author: Nicole McCray

It can be concerning once our little pup shows signs of depression, extreme tiredness, jaundice, or abnormal bleeding in the urine. There are many different possibilities and illnesses that this could be. But all signs could point to leptospirosis as well. Not many dog owners are aware of leptospirosis, what causes it, and how we can get help for it. 

That’s why we go over everything you need to know about leptospirosis in small dogs right here. Let’s get into it. 

What Is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease that is infectious. The bacteria leptospira can severely affect a dog's kidney and liver. Sadly if the infection goes untreated, it can cause death in some cases. It most commonly is spread through the urine of wild animals such as deer, raccoons, rats, etc. When they are infected and urinate into the soil, the bacteria can stay alive for a long time if the soil or water is warm.  

Small dogs can get infected with either direct contact with the animal urine that is infected or with the water/area that is contaminated. It can enter through any open sores or cuts and through the nose, eyes, or mouth. Once this happens, the bacteria multiplies itself and moves through the bloodstream, causing the following effects. 

How Can We Identify It In Small Dogs?

It’s important to remain on the lookout for the following as it can signify leptospirosis. Keep in mind that severe infections can develop rapidly with the threat of fatality. However, some mild or slight infections may not show any of the symptoms at all. 

Severe Lethargy/Depression

If your puppy usually loves to play and is high-energy, you may notice an extreme shift in energy. They may be tired a lot and have lost interest in playing. They are likely to have also lost their appetite and avoid eating. They may also seem stiff or like they are dealing with muscle pain. 


When a small pup develops jaundice from this type of illness, you will notice the lining around its nose and mouth start to turn white/yellow. Their eyes also will have a yellow tint in them. The gums also are a good indicator as to whether your dog is experiencing jaundice symptoms. 


If your dog has blood in its urine or stool, this could be a potentially life-threatening sign that your puppy has leptospirosis. Constant diarrhea is another thing to watch, especially if they are experiencing other symptoms. 


Fever and vomiting can be added to the list. If your dog is constantly shivering, this is a sign that it might have a fever. This is especially true during warmer months of the year. Also, check for red or glossy eyes. While these types of symptoms may be attributed to something else, it’s also among the symptoms of this illness. 

How is It Diagnosed?

Traditional blood tests are not the way the infection is detected. They can be a preliminary check to see if there are any abnormalities going on in the bloodstream of your small dog. But they can’t officially diagnose leptospirosis. 

There are two tests for this.

  1. DNA-PCR acts as a rapid test to look for the DNA of Leptospira by looking at a urine sample. It costs less and is a quicker result than the alternative.
  2. The MAT stands for microscopic agglutination test and looks for antibodies in the dog's bloodstream for leptospira. The more antibodies, the easier it is to confirm the disease. 

These tests are done at an animal hospital with a trained veterinarian. These aren’t tests you can do at home as a dog owner. Dog owners should be incredibly careful when dealing with sick animals for their safety and the dog's. 

The Treatment Process

It’s totally normal to feel upset if your dog has been diagnosed with leptospira, but the good news is that you can do something about it. There are a few different approaches to treatment based on the severity of the condition.

  1. Antibiotics are the first approach and can significantly positively impact your dog's condition. Dogs also usually react immediately to the medication. There are two treatment phases, with the first targeting the acute infection. The second targets the infection as a carrier to eliminate the risk of continuing to spread the disease.
  2. Dogs who are dealing with life-threatening symptoms may be hospitalized and hooked up to IVs and other treatments to attack the virus even more immediately than antibiotics can. This keeps their vitals stable until they are ready to be on their own again. 

Humans Need To Take Care

Sadly, humans can also contract Leptospirosis from dogs. It’s considered a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed between people and animals.  Face masks, goggles, gloves, and extreme caution needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Once contracted, It can be incredibly dangerous to humans as well. That’s why getting the proper care is crucial. 

According to professionals at the Bond Vet Clinic, “While there are ‘zoonotic’ diseases… that transmission is typically not likely. However, your odds do increase if you have a compromised immune system.”

You should also keep an eye on your dog at all times when outdoors to ensure they do not drink from still water like a puddle.

When In Doubt, Call A Vet

Leptospirosis is one of those illnesses that share a lot of symptoms with many other diseases. Some of them may be no big deal at all. In fact, sometimes Leptospirosis isn’t easy to detect at all in dogs. If you notice any symptoms above or feel like your pup has been acting differently, it is never a bad time to call a vet. 

Not only can they reassure you that your dog is OK, but they can act swiftly if things don’t check out well. Most importantly, while it is not common for the disease to spread from animals to humans or vice versa, it is not impossible. Exercising increased caution when your dog isn’t feeling well protects you and everyone else. 

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.