Canine Leptospirosis

Your dog killed a big rat several weeks ago. Today, your dog is weak and his eyes, ears and skin are yellow.

Luckily, there is a cure and prevention for Lepto in Manila and it involves just buying a few medicines and having your pet vaccinated.

If your dog is at the early stages of the infection without kidney and liver damage, it should generally have a smooth recovery from the disease with the help of prescriptions. But if it is diagnosed at the late phase with kidney and liver failure and severe anemia (haematocrit in CBC is less than 20), it will have 50-50 chances and give you a run for your money.

ADVANCED LEPTO IN A DISEASED PATIENT. Excessive weight loss, yellowing of the skin, and too much hepatitis are endpoints of an infection that was diagnosed and treated a little too late. Photos courtesy of Mohammad Mahmudul Hassan from



If you live in areas where there are rats who come and go, chances are your dog may be exposed to Leptospirosis. This is a bacterial disease that lives in the rat’s urine and is acquired by your pet by licking it.

Other ways of your pet getting sick with the disease is having its food or water urinated upon by a rat.

When it has a wound and it came in contact with rain water or flood, the bacteria will enter the body.

The bacteria can live in the soil for months.

You may also get the infection, so it is important that your dog is checked by a licensed veterinary professional.

After exposure, wait for 7 to 14 days before you see the symptoms in your dog.

The last one can infect man. There had been a few reports of identified Lyme disease positive dogs in the Philippines but the numbers of the infected people are lacking. This disease is more common in the United States.

No, this is IMPOSSIBLE when using a recombinant vaccine (a safe and stable form of vaccine).

If you’ve experienced Leptospirosis before, you probably know the signs.

However, if this is your first time and you’re suspecting that your dog has it, you can not simply determine just by reading this article.

At the vet hospital, your vet will obtain a blood sample and test if for Leptospirosis. The test costs around PHP 800.00 and results are usually obtained in less than half an hour. The complete blood count or CBC, costing around PHP 750.00, will determine if the disease is at its early or advanced stages. A biochemistry profile panel, approximately PHP 2,250.00, will help in identifying if complications are present. Sadly, if your pet tests positive with very low RBCs, low platelets, high CREA (about the kidneys), high BUN (toxins in the blood), high ALP and ALT (about the liver), high GLOB (tells us if problem has been present for a long time), your dog will have a hard time fighting the infection and reversing the complications.

Killing the bacteria is relatively easy, but reversing the complications of blood loss and organ failure may take at least one month before everything is okay. This delays the healing and endangers your pet’s life.

Your vet may even recommend a blood transfusion if the option is available (most specially if PCV or HCT in the CBC falls below 20). But based on my clinical experience, blood transfusion on Lepto-positive cases mostly leads to mortality.

It depends on the stage of the disease, your pet’s current condition, and if there are complications present.

If your pet is still wagging its tail and barking despite being colored yellow, your vet may just issue a prescription and ask you to observe your pet for the next 1 to 3 days. If there is no problem, your vet will ask you to return after 21 days to check if the CBC is back to normal (could take 1 to 2 months, depending on your pet’s body).

If your pet is weak, very anemic, vomiting yellow acid, and at a chronic or advanced stage of the disease, hospitalization is the best option. With kidney failure (high BUN and high CREA in biochemistry), your pet always has hyperacidity because of the failure of the kidneys to expel the toxins via peeing. Liver failure or hepatitis always causes a lack of appetite. As a result, any food, water and medicine will simply further irritate your dog’s stomach and cause more vomiting and pain. In order to administer medicines, it needs to be on IV fluids for several days. If available, your vet may even insert a tube from your dog’s nose down to its stomach to allow easy feeding.

Not always. Imagine your pet’s body as a car, and the blood as fuel. If the car is too broken beyond repair, will pouring fuel make the car work? The bone marrow or the part in the middle of the shaft of the bone that you eat in bulalo soup, produces red and white blood cells. In advanced and chronic infections, this part is so damaged; it can not produce cells anymore. And this eventually leads to death, unless there is an option for a bone marrow transplant.

As I said earlier, blood transfusion on Lepto-positive dogs does not always end up well.

Addressing anemia as a complication of Leptospirosis will depend on your health provider’s clinical protocol and experience. So please do not be afraid to ask questions.

If by some reason you will be pushing through with the transfusion, take note that there is no need for the donor and receiver’s blood to match during the first time. But for the next transfusions, it is highly necessary because if they do not match, the receiver’s body will reject it and lead to death.

Like in all other procedures in medicine, there are always risks involved in blood transfusion such as severe allergy or rejection reaction. Your vet may give your pet a steroid before administering the blood to minimize this risk.

Definitely yes. The earlier, the better. Even if they are all vaccinated.

Ampicillin and doxycycline antibiotics as core medications, supported by various supplements. Both meds are always available in your nearby drugstore, but requires a licensed veterinary professional’s prescription for you to purchase them.

If your pet is on an outpatient care, your vet will prescribe the medicines and ask that you return every 21 days after to check the complete blood count or CBC. You need to compare the CBC on the first day and the CBC 21 days after to see if there are improvements in the numbers. This could take 1 to 2 sessions.

If your pet is weak and critical, hospitalization is very important.

All medicines are given to your pet through the IV. This is the needle that stays in your pet’s arm for several days. It provides fluids to prevent dehydration, and a way to give medicines like antibiotic (to prevent bad bacteria from being overpopulated), anti-emetic (stop vomiting), pain killers (blocks pain), electrolytes, vitamins, and liver or kidney supplements. Treatment plan varies from hospital to hospital. You may want to ask your vet about the specifics of the treatment plan if you feel you need to know more.

Hospitalization may last for 1 to 14 days. Generally speaking, an improvement should be seen on day 3 to 5 of confinement. If your pet does not, expect a longer period of confinement.

Infected dogs heal by showing the following signs: return of appetite, decrease in times of vomiting, absence of pain, less yellow gums and skin, and generally just a return to its normal self.

If your pet is admitted and it just sleeps the whole day, your vet will recommend a daily or every 3 days Complete Blood Count and biochemistry profile. You will compare the numbers from day 1, and day-to-day. This is to monitor if your pet’s condition is improving.

We can say that your pet is improving if anemia is lessened (RBC and PCV gets higher), immune system is normalizing (WBC falls within the normal range), platelets are improving (PLT gets higher), kidneys are healing (CREA and BUN decreasing back to normal range), and liver is on its road to recovery (ALT and ALKP decreasing back to normal range).

Take note that the healing of liver and kidneys is very slow, and could take at least a month or more.

For cases at an early stage without complications, medium to high.

For pets that are hospitalized with complications, 50-50.

Yes but only by using a prescription from a licensed veterinary professional. Even though I mentioned the core medications above, you still need to bring your pet to the vet to know what is wrong, and what options he or she can give you depending on your circumstances.

Buying medicines that you saw other people use on the internet is not only irresponsible, it may also endanger the life of your pet. Be careful of “trending” cure-all medicines that claim that it can cure anything, based on unvalidated internet testimonials. You should always cast a shadow of doubt when one medicine or supplement can cure lots of diseases. Remember virgin coconut oil, ampalaya, turmeric, and apple cider? Yeah, you fell for one of them right?

Indiscriminate antibiotic use may help produce a multiple drug resistant bacteria in your dog that, when transferred to you, could end you up at a bed in the hospital.

In the end, just bring your pet to the vet so he or she could properly compute the right amount of medicines that your dog needs. Veterinary medicine is simply not DIY.

If your dog passed away, yes you may but only after you disinfect your entire house and garden with a 1 part bleach and 10 parts water solution, and your other dogs test negative. Cats are not affected.

If your pet survived on Doxycycline, you need to finish the 21 day regimen before you can get a new pup.

I encountered some patients who had a fast recovery from the infection which happened at around day 3 of admission. But on average, dogs may go home on day 5 to 7 as long as your pet has 24 hours of no vomit, no pain,  has normal behaviour, and an improved blood test results. Treatment will be continued at home through prescription medications.

Absolutely not. Vaccinating actively sick animals is highly dangerous and is a form of animal cruelty.

Request your dog to be tested for 1 or more test kits from different manufacturers. False negative is possible but very rare.

Yes, this happens. Currently, there are 250 types of Lepto bacteria and only 4 types have a vaccine. So that’s 246 more. Vaccination reduces how bad the disease will be in your dog, but does not 100% prevent infection.

When the blood test results are all back to normal, and your pet has completed its one round of Doxycycline (about fourteen days or more).

No, but they may become carriers for a long time. So do not handle your dog’s urine when you have wounds (or wear gloves).

Yes, about 1/3 of Lepto cases in people are from contact with infected dogs according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your dog is positive, please inform your family physician right away.

Eliminate the rats in your area. This involves privately contacting a pest control service which uses pet friendly chemicals, and asking your local government to fix your canal system. The rats live in the canals.

There are options to have your dog vaccinated twice a year for Lepto. Ask your health provider if they have this program.

Lastly, do not miss on vaccination. Being protected is better than nothing at all.


Look for an emergency service provider in advance by calling your nearby vets. It helps to know who is open at the middle of the night. Be sure you meet with the doctors and staff to make sure that this place is where you would want to take your pet if you had to. You may opt to transfer your pet to your primary care veterinarian the next day if you wish.

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