Kidney Disease in Dogs Caused by Leptosporosis

Leptosporosis is a spirochete bacteria which has several different subsets, called serovars, which cause kidney disease in dogs, as well as people. The hosts for Leptosporosis include manyKidney Disease in Dogs Caused by Leptosporosis different wild and domestic animals including rodents and cattle. Dogs are considered incidental hosts of Leptosporosis and can become very sick from infection.  The Leptosporosis serovars that are most prevalent in a particular geographic region tend to shift over time. This makes creating an effective vaccine difficult as the serovars in the vaccines must shift in sync with the disease serovars.

Development of Leptosporosis causing Kidney Disease in Dogs

Leptosporosis can cause infection through direct transmission through contact with infected urine, venereal or placental transfer, bite wounds, or ingestion of infected tissues.  The most common way for a dog to develop Leptosporosis is most likely by indirect transmission through stagnant or slow moving water.   The water can become infected primarily through infected urine by various animals, such as cows, pigs, raccoons, opossums, mice, squirrels, and foxes.  Leptosporosis can penetrate intact mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes, or weakened areas of the skin.  Once a dog becomes infected with Leptosporosis it typically will take 1 to 2 weeks to cause noticeable symptoms. Most Leptosporosis serovars result in kidney disease (ie. canicola, bratislava, and grippotyphosa serovars) but some can also cause liver disease or acute bleeding diseases. The organism spreads through the body then rapidly replicates in the tissues causing inflammation of the blood vessels, swelling, and a reduction in clotting cells.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease from Leptosporosis in Dogs

Severity of kidney disease and the clinical signs from Leptosporosis varies in dogs. Typically, dogs affected by Leptosporosis tend to be younger adults of larger breeds who spend a lot of time outdoors. However, small breed, primarily indoor only dogs, living in urban areas have been shown to develop Leptosporosis.  At our practice, we treated a bichon frise for Leptosporosis whose only experience outside was to go to the bathroom in the owner’s backyard!

Initial symptoms range from muscle pain, anorexia, fever, lethargy due to bleeding disorders, sudden (acute) kidney failure, coughing, difficulty breathing, and liver disease.

Diagnosis of Kidney Disease from Leptosporosis in Dogs

The diagnosis of kidney disease from Leptosporosis is typically made by blood testing and a urinalysis.  If a dog’s blood markers of kidney function (blood urea nitrogen and creatinine) are elevated and the urine specific gravity is decreased, the dog is likely to be diagnosed with kidney disease.

The diagnosis of Leptosporosis is made by the presence of high antibody titers to different Leptosporosis serovars on a blood test.  Other, less common methods to diagnose Leptosporosis include bacterial culture, dark-field microscopy, PCR on tissues, and immunostaining of urine sediment.

Treatment of Kidney Disease from Leptosporosis in Dogs

Once Leptosporosis is suspected treatment should be initiated immediately.  The antibody titer results to confirm the diagnosis of Leptosporosis will take at least a few days to finalize.  Treatment of kidney disease from Leptosporosis includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids, supportive care, and antibiotics. Leptosporosis is effectively treated with most penicillins and doxycycline derivatives as well as Azithromycin. As Leptosporosis can be contracted by people (zoonotic), appropriate precautions must be used for veterinary staff and for home care.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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