Canine Leptospirosis: Diagnosing Infectious Diseases In Your Dog

Even though your dog may not be showing signs, if they have been exposed to unsanitary water or other infected animals, they may be suffering from leptospirosis. Dogs are particularly susceptible to this bacterial disease, which has seen an increasing prevalence with approximately 8.2% of dogs shedding the infectious pathogen [1]. Transmission of leptospirosis is largely due to environmental factors such as high precipitation rates, flooding, uncontrolled urban development, and poor sanitary conditions [1]. Leptospirosis is caused by water-borne bacteria, and so exposure to puddles and moist soil contaminated by the urine of infected animals can cause disease transmission.

This condition is painful for your furry friend and can develop into serious life-threatening conditions affecting the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and brain if left untreated [2]. Early intervention is recommended, and so if you suspect your pet has leptospirosis, visit a veterinarian immediately so they can diagnose and provide a treatment plan.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is caused by the pathogenic Leptospira genus, which has been reported to infect over 150 mammalian species and has over 250 serotypes [3]. Leptospira is a flexible, spiral-shaped, Gram-negative bacteria that is extremely pathogenic in canines; specifically, L. interrogans and L. kirschneri infections are the primary culprits in canine infections [4].

Transmission of leptospires occurs through direct contact or indirect contact of the pathogen due to environmental exposures. The pathway that the leptospires take to infect their host is complex, as the pathogen enters the body through mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth, or in some cases skin [1]. The pathogen is then able to multiply in the bloodstream and go on to infect the kidneys and other tissue. The infectious cycle renews once the infected dog sheds the pathogen through urination, potentially exposing other animals to the disease [1]. Notably, some infected dogs may enter a carrier state and be asymptomatic [5]. In some cases, Leptospira spp. are able to persist and shed in urine for weeks to months [1].

Climate change has substantially impacted the transmissibility of the disease by creating weather conditions that allow perfect situations (like floods) for exposure to unsanitary water [6]. Increasing rates of this disease are significantly noted in the Midwest, Eastern, and Southwestern USA [6]. Regardless, dogs with access to ponds, lakes, streams, or other stagnant water are particularly at risk for developing leptospirosis [1]. If left untreated, leptospirosis can result in leptospiremia, which is when leptospires multiply in the bloodstream and go on to infect other tissues and organs. Complications that can result from leptospiremia include vascular damage (and consequently kidney failure, liver damage, and/or clotting problems) and/or acute renal failure and hepatic dysfunction [5]. For any dog parent, identifying symptoms of leptospirosis is critical. Early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia/weight loss
  • Depression
  • Acute renal failure
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Respiratory distress

597e61_d59316475f2546caa3b990d52811751b~mv2

The image above depicts a corgi drinking water from a puddle. To avoid infectious diseases like leptospirosis, it is recommended to avoid drinking from stagnant water.

Preventing and Treating Leptospirosis in Your Dog

Dogs are highly at risk for developing leptospirosis due to exposure to unsanitary conditions. While it may seem harmless to let your dog drink out of stagnant puddles of water on a walk, jump into a pond on a hike, etc., this can lead to unnecessary exposure to Leptospira spp. It is especially important to be aware of possible exposures to the pathogen, as a treatment for leptospirosis is admittedly lacking.

Early diagnosis allows for the administration of procaine benzylpenicillin G, which over weeks may cure the infection and help curb organ damage. Should liver damage occur, further treatment is needed [5]. Generally, doxycycline is the standard treatment for leptospirosis, although curing the infection is difficult. Often times an infected dog may become a chronic carrier of the disease and require long-term monitoring [5].

Diagnosing Leptospirosis in Your Dog

Historically, culture-based methods have been used to assess possible bacterial infections in dogs, but there are notable diagnostic shortcomings. In a prospective study of canine leptospirosis using both culture and PCR techniques, the authors noted how “culturing of leptospires, albeit essential to confirm infection, is not a suitable technique for the identification of urinary shedders, especially for presenting frequent contamination, low sensitivity, and fastidious growth of the pathogen” [7]. PCR testing also has severe shortcomings in terms of leptospirosis diagnostics, as intermittent shedding may lead to false-negative PCR results [7]. Conversely, Next-Gen Sequencing (NGS) has provided an exciting and effective alternative to culture- and PCR- based diagnostics, allowing for improved Leptospira classification and diagnostics [8].

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test may provide the answer to the diagnostic conundrum that leptospirosis poses for your dog. Utilizing NGS technology to detect and quantify all microbial DNA through untargeted and comprehensive sequencing and quantitative comparisons to reference databases, the MiDOG NGS technology provides a useful opportunity to shed light on the microbial makeup of your dog’s bacterial infection for clinical application. The MiDOG microbial test is grounded on scientific research that provides veterinarians DNA evidence for the guided treatment of dog infections, such as leptospirosis.

eye infection test for dogs with midog

Find out if your vet uses MiDOG before you book your next appointment!

References

[1] Canine Leptospirosis | Merck Animal Health USA. Merck Animal Health USA. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/nobivac/canine-leptospirosis.

[2] Murphy, K. (2018). Leptospirosis in dogs and cats: new challenges from an old bacteria. In Practice, 40(6), 218-229. https://doi.org/10.1136/inp.k2926

[3] Sykes, J. E., Hartmann, K., Lunn, K. F., Moore, G. E., Stoddard, R. A., & Goldstein, R. E. (2011). 2010 ACVIM small animal consensus statement on leptospirosis: diagnosis, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 25(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2010.0654.x

[4] Major, A., Schweighauser, A., & Francey, T. (2014). Increasing Incidence of Canine Leptospirosis in Switzerland. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 11(7), 7242-7260. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110707242

[5] Gutierrez, L., Mendoza, J., Rangel, A., Tapia, G., Bernad, M., & Sumano, H. (2019). Outpatient Clinical Trial in Dogs With Leptospirosis Treated With Enrofloxacin Hydrochloride-Dihydrate (ENRO-C). Frontiers In Veterinary Science, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00360

[6] White, A., Zambrana-Torrelio, C., Allen, T., Rostal, M., Wright, A., & Ball, E. et al. (2017). Hotspots of canine leptospirosis in the United States of America. The Veterinary Journal, 222, 29-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2017.02.009

[7] Miotto, B. A., Guilloux, A., Tozzi, B. F., Moreno, L. Z., da Hora, A. S., Dias, R. A., Heinemann, M. B., Moreno, A. M., Filho, A., Lilenbaum, W., & Hagiwara, M. K. (2018). Prospective study of canine leptospirosis in shelter and stray dog populations: Identification of chronic carriers and different Leptospira species infecting dogs. PloS one, 13(7), e0200384. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200384

[8] Agampodi, S., & Vinetz, J. (2021). Next-Generation Sequencing Analysis of Pathogenic Leptospira: A Way Forward for Understanding Infectious Disease Dynamics in Low/Middle-Income, Disease-Endemic Settings. The American Journal Of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene, 104(5), 1625-1627. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-1518


Categories: Dogs, Eye Infections, Next-Gen DNA Sequencing Technology

animal diagnostics

Validated by Veterinarians

“Clients expect their veterinarians to stay up to date on all matters that affect the health and well being of their non-human family members. The current technique that we have used to determine the presence and antibiotic sensitivity of organisms causing disease in our pets is over a century old.

With the emergence of dangerous antibacterial resistance, it is critical that veterinarians are able to offer laser focused diagnostics and treatment. MiDog enables us to offer care that exceeds the typical standard of care.”

Bernadine Cruz, DVM, Laguna Hills Animal Hospital Laguna Woods, CA

“I love the absolute abundance and comparing the fungal with bacterial infection. I do not worry as much about getting a false negative urinary infection reading as I do with traditional urine cultures. Several times the same urine would culture negative but MiDOG would detect pathogens.”

Michael Morgan, DVMQuail Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“The MiDOG All-in-One Test is amazing, I would use it instead of culture and sensitivity.  Such rapid and detailed results, I will reach for MiDOG before culture next time!

Thank you very much MiDOG, for sharing the opportunity to try your technology.”

Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC – Boston, MA

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test is our new gold standard of pathogen identification. The results are so accurate and valuable – especially with assessing both bacterial and fungal infections with the same sample.

Thank you MiDOG!”

Kathy Wentworth, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Canine and Feline Practice – PetPoint Medical Center, Irvine, CA

“The MiDOG staff was extremely helpful and supportive.”

Cathy Curtis, DVM – London, UK

“I have had great results using the MiDOG® Test. Compared to traditional culture tests, I am better able to target the treatment for dogs because the MiDOG® Test is so sensitive that it identifies all pathogens including bacteria and fungi, as well as antibiotic sensitivity.

The cost and turnaround time are about the same as a culture test, but I get much more data. The test has great performance and I believe the NGS technology will be a game changer for veterinarians treating dogs with lesions or other infections.”

Michael Kavanagh, DVM, Practice owner – Saddleback Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“It’s helpful to have an NGS spectrum because it gives you a broader insight of what’s happening and what might be going on.”

Richard Harvey BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS – European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology – Head of Dermatology, Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service – Solihull, England UK

“I have been using MiDog for over 4 years now and exclusively as my test of choice for all cultures for 3 years.  It is so great to submit a culture and feel confident there will be a result when it comes back, especially for urine cultures.  The reports were intimidating at first because they contain so much information.  After the first few, I am now quickly able to glance over it and pick out the highlights.  I can then come back later and pour over all the details.  I have been extremely pleased with my patients’ results using the test as well.  I don’t envision ever going back to traditional culture and susceptibilities again.”

Brian M. Urmson, DVM, Columbiana Veterinary Associates

“As an exotic veterinarian, there are numerous tests we have to consider to check specific bacterial and fungal organisms based on the species. MiDOG eliminates the need for many of these separate samples and provides definitive results quickly to help us treat our patients more efficiently and effectively. The lab is wonderful to work with and has never rejected our samples- they even processed a lizard toe we amputated and determined the cause of skin infection.”

Dr. Melissa Giese, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

“MiDOG’s diagnostic approach offers the unique ability to identify pathogens that evade traditional culture and sensitivity testing. I have found that adding a molecular based testing approach in the form of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) from MiDOG to my routine diagnostic cultures can be extremely helpful in the identification and diagnosis of uncommon pathogens in veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz, Animal Dermatology Clinic – Tustin

“She [Dr. Krumbeck] really did a great job of making complicated concepts accessible and demonstrating the value of your services. I’m really looking forward to working with MiDOG on my research project!”

Dr. Yaicha Peters, Animal Dermatology Clinic – San Diego

“As a proud collaborator with MiDOG, I deeply appreciate their dedication to fostering partnerships between industry and veterinary experts. Their commitment to enhancing diagnostic quality for veterinarians is commendable. In my experience, their support has been invaluable, earning them a ‘Double A+, Triple Star’ rating. Their assistance has been faultless, contributing significantly to the success of my projects and studies. I eagerly anticipate our continued collaboration.”

Dr. Richard Harvey, BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS; European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology

“We’re seeing that, if we prescribe too many antibiotics or they’re taken too frequently, animals are developing inappropriate or pathogenic strains of bacteria. We’re also seeing that our antibiotics are just not working against them anymore… It’s a good example of why we need better diagnostic testing, like MiDOG, so that we’re selecting the correct antibiotic every time our patients have an infection.”

Dr. Alissa Rexo, DVM, CVA, DACVD, Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Dermatology