Honee’s Case of Leptospirosis


Author: Dr. Clarissa G. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

Primary Veterinarian: Dr. Waterman

Patient: Honee Hollis

Breed: English Toy Spaniel

Age: 9.5 years old (Honee was 1 year old at the time of diagnosis)

Diagnosis: Leptospirosis

Case History: On March 1, 2010, Honee was evaluated at Lawndale Veterinary Hospital because she had lost her appetite, and her water intake and urination frequency had increased.

Physical Examination Findings: Honee had developed a fever, but otherwise she had fairly normal examination findings.

Initial Diagnostic Test Results: Honee had a mildly elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN), low potassium, an elevated white blood cell count, blood in her urine, and the urine concentration was dilute (suggesting the kidneys were not concentrating the urine normally). BUN is a measure of kidney function. The other kidney value that was checked (creatinine) was high normal.

Initial Treatments: Honee was placed on antibiotics and monitored carefully.

Recheck: On March 3, 2010, Honee returned for a recheck examination. Although she was feeling a little better, she was still drinking and urinating more frequently. The BUN and the creatinine values were now both elevated. When both BUN and creatinine are elevated and dilute urine is identified, it is important to consider what might be going on with kidney function. At that point, the decision was made to hospitalize Honee so that she could be treated with intravenous fluids (to support her kidneys), additional antibiotics, and a prescription kidney diet. Leptospirosis titers were submitted to the laboratory.

Outcome: Honee was able to go home by March 5, 2010 because she was feeling better and her kidney values had normalized. The leptospirosis titers came back positive for two serovars: Leptospira gryppotyphosa and L. autumnalis. Her kidney values were monitored regularly over the next few months. Thankfully, Honee made a full recovery and she is still doing great! Honee’s owner said that prior to Honee’s diagnosis, she had not heard of Leptospirosis. And, Honee’s owner added that she vaccinates all her dogs against Leptospirosis now.

Discussion: Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the spiral-shaped bacterium Leptospira interrogans. There are multiple subtypes (serovars) of L. interrogans that can cause disease. L. interrogans resides in reservoirs such as streams, lakes, ponds, and the soil. Wildlife populations are living reservoirs for this disease (including rodents, deer, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and opossums). The bacteria can be transmitted through the urine or other body fluids. Depending on the serovar causing infection, L. interrogans can lead to kidney failure (as in Honee’s case), liver failure, or even death. Specific antibiotics can be used to treat the infection, and vaccination is available for prevention of some of the more common serovars in dogs. Importantly, Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted between people and animals. Given how closely pets interact with family members, this is an important disease to understand.

Lawndale Veterinary Hospital’s Recommendations: As always, the decision to vaccinate for any disease is based on an individual dog’s overall health status, medical history, the risk of exposure, and state law requirements (e.g. the rabies vaccine is required for all dogs and cats regardless of lifestyle). Dogs who go hiking, camping, swimming, or drink from standing water are at a higher risk of exposure to L. interrogans. It is important to also realize that dogs who just stay in their own yards can still be exposed due to factors such as the uncontrollable influx of wildlife. We encourage all dog owners to discuss the risk of Leptospirosis for their individual dogs with our doctors.