Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a spiral shaped bacteria (or spirochete) similar to the type which causes Lymes disease. This bacteria is mainly spread by wildlife including raccoons, opossums, rodents and skunks, through their urine. The urine contaminates soil and water and can live for months in the environment. Dogs often become infected by drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water such as in ponds, lakes and puddles. The bacteria enter the dog through the eyes, nose or mouth, or through cuts or scratches in the skin. The bacteria then spreads through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, especially the liver and kidneys, and may cause acute or chronic illness or even death. Animals may also become carriers of the disease and shed the bacteria in their urine. Humans are also susceptible to this disease, as are hogs and cattle.
The incidence of leptospirosis in Iowa is on the increase, following a period of time when its occurrence was rare.
Vaccination is considered safe and effective for the four most common strains of the disease. Re-vaccination must occur annually to maintain protection. Any Iowa dog that spends time outside the house should be protected by vaccination from contracting this disease.