Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect people and animals. The bacteria can be found in soil and water and can be carried and spread in the urine of infected animals (including rodents, wildlife, pets, and livestock). Dogs can become infected with leptospirosis. Symptoms in dogs include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases may result in liver or kidney failure. Some dogs do not show signs of illness, and even after treatment, dogs with leptospirosis can shed the bacteria in their urine for several months.

People can also be exposed to leptospirosis and often develop flu-like symptoms. Severe illness resulting in liver and kidney damage may also occur. Infected dogs can also spread leptospirosis to people. People that work with animals may be at increased risk for leptospirosis. In Arizona, leptospirosis in both dogs and people is rare and sporadic. However, cases in dogs are now on the rise, with several groups of leptospirosis positive dogs having been reported in Arizona in the past year.

There are no confirmed cases of human leptospirosis associated with any of these ill dogs. The Arizona Department of Agriculture – Office of the State Veterinarian, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Arizona Department of Health Services , and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to investigate the possible source and provide education to veterinarians and dog owners to prevent illness. Leptospirosis can be prevented in people and pets by following these recommendations:

  • Wear protective clothing and shoes to avoid exposure to contaminated water or soil.
  • Avoid recreational activities, such as swimming, in water that may be contaminated with animal urine
  • Avoid contact with rodents and wildlife to reduce exposure to the bacteria
  • Discuss vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis with your veterinarian

If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, be safe by following these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands after handling your pet.
  • Wear protective equipment, such as gloves, when cleaning up after your pet to avoid contact with the urine.
  • If your dog urinates in your home, quickly clean the area with a household disinfectant, such as 1:10 bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) solution.
  • Encourage your dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals go to avoid further spread.
  • Avoid taking your pet to a boarding facility, daycare, or dog park until antibiotic treatment is completed and your veterinarian has been able to re-evaluate your dog.
  • Visit your doctor and contact public health if you or a family member feels sick. Let them know your dog was recently diagnosed with leptospirosis.

Contact your local health agency, veterinarian, or email vbzd@azdhs.gov for more information.