Leptospirosis in Dogs

What is Leptospirosis in Dogs and should my Miniature Schnauzer be vaccinated for it?

About Leptospirosis in Dogs

About & Causes:

Leptospirosis (also referred to as Lepto for short) is a bacterial disease that can infect both humans and dogs (zoonosis). It is caused by a spirochaete bacterium called Leptospira. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with fluids from an infected animal.

Direct contact transmission can occur by swallowing contaminated food or water, or through skin contact via a break in the skin or an open wound or via the mucous membranes like the eyes, nostrils, or genitals.

In dogs, the disease is more commonly transmitted by coming into contact with contaminated puddle, pond, or ditch water. The water becomes contaminated by the urine of infected animals or wildlife (skunks, squirrels, raccoons, rats, possums, etc). Although less likely to occur, a dog suffering a bite from an infected animal can contract the disease as well.

Lepto remains contagious while it is moist. And since most dogs are notorious for licking and tasting everything they come in contact with, you need to keep a watchful eye on your Schnauzer when out on walks and hikes to ensure he does not lick any grass or soil that may be contaminated.


Leptospirosis in dogs can affect the liver and kidneys, causing them to become damaged and diseased. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

Once the disease infects the bloodstream, it travels quickly throughout the body (within 5 to 7 days). So a proper diagnosis and treatment is needed early on to prevent permanent damage to internal organs.

Although not all dogs show outward signs of the disease, dogs 6 months or younger or those dogs not vaccinated for lepto, the warning signs will be noticeable.

Warning Signs of Lepto

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight-loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tenderness, pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Jaundice (yellowing of gums, skin, etc..)

Your veterinarian will do blood and urine tests on your Miniature Schnauzer to help determine the cause of illness. Once your veterinarian has made a definitive diagnosis of leptospirosis and if the disease is caught in time, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics (penicillin and tetracycline drugs) along with supportive treatments of fluid therapy.

More aggressive treatment will be necessary if liver and/or kidney failure has occurred. The prognosis in these cases is usually not good.


Prevention for leptospirosis in dogs is available with non-core vaccines. But it should be pointed out that there are several subtypes of leptospirosis and the vaccines protect against only a few of them. This is why it is important for each Schnauzer owner to have a thorough discussion and evaluation of your dog's risks of being infected with their veterinarian.  As most of us know vaccines do not go without their own threats to our Miniature Schnauzers (facial swelling, seizures, elevated heart rate, anaphylactic shock, coma, and death).

note: The American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA considers leptospirosis vaccines as noncore vaccines. Non-core vaccines are for those dogs considered to be at an increased risk of being infected with a disease due to their lifestyle or living environment. Other non-core vaccines are for kennel cough and Lyme disease.

If your Miniature Schnauzer goes swimming and/or drinks from infected waters, he could easily develop leptospirosis disease. That's why dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors or in wooded areas where wildlife is more plentiful, are at a higher risk of being infected (working breeds). Dogs that spend most of their time indoors or are not exposed to such high risk environments, are less likely to become infected.

Important to Know: Since the leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, strict measures should be taken when caring for and treating an ill pet recovering from it. An owner should take extra precautions, like wearing gloves when handling their dog and be sure to strictly follow all of the guidelines outlined by their veterinarian.

It should be further noted that a dog can continue to shed leptospira in their urine for several more months after treatment has ended.

Leptospirosis in Dogs

If you have any questions or concerns about Leptospirosis in dogs please consult with a veterinarian.

It can be hard to decide if a pet needs to visit the vet, especially as it can mean trauma for your pet to travel, and weekend and late-night questions create special problems. The veterinary experts on JustAnswer are available any time, and can provide diagnoses, guidance and advice.

Get an answer back from a Vet or Vet Tech (often within minutes). Experts on call to answer your questions every day, at all hours when you need them most!  

What an easy and fast way to get a second opinion from a dog expert! PLUS its 100% satisfaction guaranteed!

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