skin disorders in french bulldogs

Skin Problems in French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs are prone to several types of skin problems. From yeast to keratinization issues, these skin problems in French Bulldogs can cause pain, itching, and soreness. A serious yeast infection called Malassezia pachydermatis can lead to painful redness, itching, and soreness, and can lead to ear infections and a foul odor.

Types of Skin Problems in French Bulldogs

Pemphigus Foliacues

Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune disease of the skin caused by a reaction of the immune system to a certain protein found in the skin. This protein is involved in the attachment of skin cells to one another within the outer layer of skin. In dogs with this disease, the lesions appear as pustules/crusts.

Sarcoptes scabies mite

Your dog may be showing signs of scabies if you notice a rash or itching on his or her skin. It is very important to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian as scabies is a contagious skin infection. This skin problem can be very uncomfortable for your canine friend, so he or she will need to be confined during treatment.

skin problems in french bulldogs

Demodex red mite

Skin problems in French Bulldogs can result from exposure to the Demodex red mite and can cause several different symptoms. These symptoms include hair loss, sometimes in multiple, and mild itching.

A veterinarian can diagnose demodectic mange by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope. Alternatively, a skin biopsy can be performed to identify demodex mites.


Skin disorders in French Bulldogs can be caused by a variety of less apparent reasons, including a change in diet and stress. A dog suffering from anxiety or undue stress is much more prone to developing reactions that will affect his body, including the skin.

Food Allergies

French Bulldogs can develop a variety of skin conditions that can be caused by food allergies. This condition can be very painful for your dog and can cause changes in your dog’s personality. Allergies to specific food ingredients can be treated by a close scrutiny of the food provided to your dog, trial and error and ultimately appropriate adjustments to your dog’s diet.

There’s no doubt that the quality of the food you are giving your dog has a major role and seeing as French Bulldogs are allergy sensitive, you should make sure you canine friend gets premium veterinary food, designed to fight skin disorders and allergies.


Pyoderma is a common skin condition in dogs, and it can present itself in a variety of symptoms. It can be caused by food allergies, parasites, and certain medications, such as corticosteroids.

Treatment varies depending on the severity and underlying cause, but is often focused on treating the underlying cause, such as food allergies. Some cases can be managed by using an antimicrobial topical agent.

Environmental Allergies

Some French Bulldog skin problems can be due to environmental allergies. These problems can be caused by seasonal pollen, dust, mold, or laundry detergent. They can cause symptoms such as itchy ears and paws and may also cause hair loss. In such a case, it is important to get your dog to the veterinarian for an allergy test.

Skin Problems in French Bulldogs: Conclusion

Fortunately, many skin problems in French Bulldogs are treatable. Treatments may include topical steroids, antihistamines, or even surgery. Ultimately, a veterinarian should be consulted to determine which treatment is best for your dog.



Pericardial Effusion in dogs

Fluid Around the Heart in Dogs: a Challenging Condition

There are several conditions that can affect our dog’s heart as they begin to age, or just because of their breed. One of the most common cardiac conditions is the appearance of fluid around the heart in dogs.

Fluid Around the Heart in Dogs – Pericardial Effusion

The cardiac condition where fluids build up around the heart inside the pericardial sac (pericardium) is called a pericardial effusion. It is normal for the pericardium to have a small amount of fluid in its sac for lubrication, making it easier for the heart to move within it.

An abnormal amount of fluid accumulation around the heart is interfering with its ability to pump blood.

Symptoms of Fluid Around the Heart

Symptoms of this condition vary depending on the speed of onset with which the condition is affecting the dog. This is when veterinarians will want to determine if the pericardial effusion is acute or chronic to decide what type of treatment is required.


Symptoms and clinical signs can range from fainting and collapse to exercise intolerance and an enlarged belly. The most common observation in veterinary hospitals of dogs that were later diagnosed with pericardial effusion was weakness, lethargy and collapse or fainting.

Fluid Around the Heart in Dogs

When symptoms are first noted, the dog should immediately be taken to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis. Treatment and care will vary significantly depending on the underlying cause.

Acute vs Chronic – What are the Symptoms

The symptoms that are noticed with an acute onset of pericardial effusion are typically fainting, collapse or worst-case scenario, death. Some owners confuse episodes of fainting with seizures due to stiffened or shaking limbs and confusion.

Chronic pericardial effusion will show symptoms slowly over time and may not be immediately noticed. Usually, owners report coughing, exercise intolerance, weight loss and distended abdomen.

How is Fluid Around the Heart in Dogs Building Up?

There can be several reasons that fluid accumulates within the pericardial sac.

Pericardial effusion can be caused by tumors that are growing within the heart or just on the pericardial sac. This condition can also be caused by inflammation which is usually secondary to an infection of the pericardium. In some cases, the cause of the inflammation is unknown, also referred to as idiopathic.

Pericardial Effusion in dogs

Causes such as trauma, congestive heart failure, breed and clotting factor abnormalities are also common reasons causing pericardial effusion.

Are There Certain Breeds That Are Prone to Fluid Build-Up Around the Heart?

There are several dog breeds that are more susceptible to this condition. It is typically due to overbreeding and poor genetic standards.

Fluid around the heart in dogs is common in the following breeds: Boxers, Bulldogs (French or English), Poodles, Boston Terriers, Golden Retrievers and Weimaraners. Any mixes with these breeds are also at higher risk.

How Is Fluid Around the Heart Diagnosed?

There is no single diagnostic method to confirm fluid build-up around the heart in your dog. Your veterinarian will use several ways to help them diagnose your dog with this cardiac condition. They include a physical exam, electrocardiography, radiography (x-rays), ultrasound (echocardiogram) and blood analysis.

Physical Exam

Performing a physical exam can be very helpful in diagnosing different health issues in our pets. Your veterinarian may find several things or just one that may lead him to suspect pericardial effusion. Their suspicions should always be backed up with further diagnostics.

Some physical exam findings of pericardial effusion can include muffled heart sounds, pale gums, abnormal pulses (pulsus paradoxus), fluid-filled abdomen, increased or abnormal respirations. Age and breed can also be an indicator of this condition.

The presence of a heart murmur is not always indicative of this condition however.

Electrocardiogram of a dog

 Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)

An electrocardiogram is a common tool used for diagnosing pericardial effusion. There are several distinct findings that can help understand if the assumed diagnosis is correct. A normal ECG does not necessarily mean there is no fluid build-up within the pericardium.

Ultrasound or Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound to interpret conditions with the heart. This procedure is crucial in diagnosing the pericardial effusion as well as its severity. This tool is extremely important for identifying cardiac masses as well as interpreting the overall function and blood flow of the heart.

Ultrasound-guided Pericardiocentesis

In rare emergent cases of acute collapse and low cardiac output pericardiocentesis may need to be performed. This is where a veterinarian will take a syringe and needle and insert it into the chest cavity between the 5th and 6th rib space and withdraw fluid that is impending upon the heart.

When this is successful and positive results are seen, sending the fluid in for analysis would be warranted. Analysis of the fluid can be helpful in identifying if the underlying cause of the pericardial effusion was inflammatory or infectious.

Radiograph (x-rays)

When using radiographs to confirm that fluid around the heart in dogs is present, the first thing that is noted is an above normal heart size or cardiac silhouette. Sometimes the heart may also appear round or have a “sharp” edged appearance due to decreased heart motion.

Please note that radiographs are not a conclusive method to diagnose pericardial effusion but it can also provide an indication on how well the heart is actually functioning.

Physical Exam of a dog at the vet

Blood Analysis

Depending on the underlying cause of the fluid build-up around the heart, laboratory blood analysis may or may not be very telling. In most cases, an increase in kidney values can be seen due to a decrease in the heart’s functionality and the ability to circulate blood to other organs.

What Happens When a Dog Has Fluid Around the Heart?

When fluid accumulates within the pericardial sac, causing pericardial effusion, it leads to what is called cardiac tamponade. When the pressure in the pericardium becomes too high then the chambers of the heart cannot expand to fill with blood. At this point, the heart can no longer properly pump blood to the rest of the body.

How Do You Treat This Condition?

The first step to treating pericardial effusion in dogs is by identifying any underlying cause and going from there. Because there are several reasons that a dog may develop this condition, there are also several ways to treat it. Unfortunately, no treatment option seems to be simple and risky procedures may need to be performed in order to provide relief.


Sometimes performing a pericardiocentesis in order to remove some of the fluid from the pericardial sac is also necessary in order to correct the life-threatening cardiac tamponade condition.

This procedure should only be performed with ultrasound guidance because it involves sticking a needle dangerously close to the heart. It is important to know that it will not cure the condition and is potentially deadly if complications were to arise.

If your dog is not showing any signs of cardiac tamponade then pericardiocentesis should not be considered.

Symptoms Of Fluid Around the Heart

Surgical Treatment

Tumors or masses are common causes of fluid build-up around the heart in dogs. In some cases, surgical removal of the pericardial mass may be performed while others are treated with chemotherapy. Some owners opt for supportive care and oral diuretics instead of surgery or chemo.

Some specialists will recommend a surgical procedure called pericardectomy, which is where a piece of the pericardium is removed, allowing for the fluid to drain. In rare cases, this treatment is actually successful. Some doctors will only recommend it for temporary relief.

The Prognosis for Fluid Around the Heart In Dogs

The prognosis for this condition varies significantly depending on what the underlying cause is. In most cases that were unrelated to trauma, the life expectancy is less than two years after diagnosis of pericardial effusion.

Any pericardial effusion that is linked to cancer, is strictly dependent on the type of cancer you are dealing with. Many of these cases respond well to pericardiocentesis initially but relief is only temporary as symptoms and clinical signs usually remerge later.

Because many of these aortic or pericardial tumors tend to be slowly evolving, the prognosis is more positive than in the case of infectious pericarditis or hemangiosarcoma. Pericardial effusion in dogs is another condition that is dictated based on the severity of the heart disease.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for many cases of fluid around the heart in dogs is guarded. While this is better than poor, it is still a matter of quality of life in most scenarios.

pulmonary hypertension in dogs

All About Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs

Do you want to know all about Pulmonary Hypertension in dogs? What does it mean? How do you avoid it?

What is Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs?

Pulmonary hypertension is basically high blood pressure that impacts the lungs and heart (associating with the lungs). Hypertension itself indicated high blood pressure, and the word pulmonary means “pertaining to the lungs”’.

So, a dog’s blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is much higher than it should be!

What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is just a fancy medical term for high blood pressure in the lungs. But what causes it? We’ll list four factors below that are a direct cause of pulmonary hypertension in dogs.

  • Arteries/ capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the lungs narrow
  • Pulmonary artery blockage (the main artery to lungs)
  • Increased blood pressure in ling capillaries
  • Excessively high blood flow in lung arteries

congestive heart failure in dogs

So, does that mean your dog has lung or heart problems? Why is the heart involved at all, if ‘Pulmonary’ just means “of the lungs”?

Well, it’s not that simple. Many things that have to do with the lungs also involve the heart! After all, one is working to supply the other with oxygenated blood. Even a developmental heart defect can eventually lead to pulmonary hypertension.

Thankfully for all of us dog lovers, most dogs with pulmonary hypertension are elderly! It’s rare for this to be caused by a defect. Female dogs also suffer this more often than males.

Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and adrenal gland disease can also lead to high blood pressure in dogs. Like humans, stress can also affect BP levels, though usually temporarily.

How does high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) affect the heart?

The right side of your dog’s heart is getting oxygen less blood and pumping it out toward the lungs, and the left side is receiving oxygen-rich blood from those lungs and pumping it out through the rest of the body via arteries.

So, let’s say those arteries are thinner for any reason. The heart now has to pump harder, sometimes sending even less blood out.

Causes of Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs

So, let’s say those arteries are thinner for any reason. The heart now has to pump harder, sometimes sending even less blood out.

Blood carries oxygen, which our cells need to survive. What happens if our body’s tissues don’t get enough blood? They don’t get the right amount of oxygen.

This is why heart attacks (myocardial infarction) are so dangerous!

Signs of High Blood Pressure in Dogs

Below, we’ll list some of the signs of high blood pressure in dogs. Some of these are extreme, and not all will be present in every case!

  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Trouble breathing
  • rapid breathing
  • coughing
  • coughing/spitting up blood
  • fainting
  • weight loss
  • heart murmur
  • Bluish discoloration of skin
  • distended jugular veins
  • fluid buildup underneath skin
  • death

Normal Blood Pressure

An average dog’s normal blood pressure should fall between 110/60 to 160/90, slightly higher than a normal human’s bp. A dog’s blood pressure and heart rate, as well as other vitals, are naturally a little higher than a human’s.

Symptoms & Signs of canine Pulmonary Hypertension

Dogs can be considered hypertensive, or rather they have high blood pressure, if the ‘systolic’ (top number) is over 160, and the diastolic (bottom number) reaches over 100. These dogs are at risk for cardiovascular complications!

In other words, a blood pressure of 170/110 would be hypertensive!

What Exactly is Blood Pressure?

The pressure blood exerts against the walls of the heart’s arteries as they empty of blood then relax and fill back up is what we call “Blood Pressure”.

Systolic Pressure (top number): Max pressure against artery walls as heart contracts

Diastolic Pressure (bottom number): Minimum pressure against arterial walls

Is Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs Dangerous?

This depends on how high the blood pressure is. Extremely high blood pressure can lead to things like:

  • Seizures
  • Partial paralysis
  • Heart murmurs or unusual rhythms
  • Other nervous system abnormalities
  • Heart attack and sudden death

This is almost always going to be more common in older dogs! It is, of course, also common in obese dogs. If you live in America, an enormous population of domestic dogs are sadly obese. Is your dog in shape?

various medications used for dogs to treat pulmonary hypertension

How Do I Lower my Dog’s BP?

Studies have shown that simply spending time with your furry pal will cause the release of serotonin and oxytocin, while lowering cortisol (stress hormone)! Together, scientists claim this can lower your pup’s blood pressure by as much as 10%.

Give your dog attention, keep him happy, and play!


Talk to your veterinarian about medication designed to lower Pulmonary Hypertension in Dogs. Your own pet might benefit from a medication regimen. Just be sure to only give medications prescribed by a veterinary physician!

Good Nutritional Plan

Diabetes is one of the many causes of a dog’s high blood pressure. Good nutrition is always important, and a high quality diet can help avoid these causes. What kind of nutritional regimen do you offer?

In general, your veterinarian will suggest a treatment plan according to the cause of your dog’s high blood pressure.

  • Nutrition doesn’t usually directly cause hypertension in dogs. Higher fat diets can lead to obesity in dogs, which can cause hypertension! Remember, about 25% of dogs in America, and many in other areas of the world, are considered obese.

dog owner with canine friend

Diseases Leading to High Blood Pressure in Dogs

Unlike humans, nutrition doesn’t often lead to high blood pressure in dogs directly (minus the obesity factor). Many diseases or disorders, however, can! According to the American Kennel Club, these are some of the many underlying conditions that can cause pulmonary hypertension:

  • Chronic Renal disease
  • Glomerular disease (a protein-losing kidney disease)
  • Endocrine disease
  • Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Acromegaly (growth hormone overproduction)
  • An adrenal tumour (pheochromocytoma)
  • Polycythemia (unusual increase in the number of red blood cells in the circulatory system)
  • Obesity

Dog Breeds at Higher Risk for Pulmonary Hypertension

You’re probably wondering if your dog breed is at higher risk for blood pressure issues. The unfortunate truth is- he or she might be. Many things that cause or contribute are hereditary, meaning conditions passed from mother/father to offspring, and more prevalent in certain breeds.

Consider having your dog genetically tested for any hereditary disorders he or she may develop in the future. Thanks to advances in science, these tests are common, and many companies provide them!

old dog vestibular disease recurrence

Old dog vestibular disease recurrence: odds are low

Most dogs affected by the disease are back to normal within two to three weeks. Old dog vestibular disease recurrence is really unusual but can occur with dogs suffering from stress or anxiety. In that case, episodes of relapse are typically mild. However, if the dog does not recover, or continues to have episodes, you should consult your veterinarian to conduct further tests.

Geriatric vestibular syndrome in dogs

Let’s take a deeper look at this disease. The dog’s vestibular system tells him where his body is, helps him balance and coordinates his head and eye movements. The receptors for the vestibular system are in the inner ear and the information they collect is processed by the brainstem and cerebellum. Vestibular disease is an abnormality of the system. Geriatric vestibular syndrome is a common form of vestibular disease in older dogs. While the cause is generally not known, it is not a fatal disease.

dog vestibular disease recurrence concerns

Risk factors

Vestibular Geriatric Syndrome (GVS), or Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome, is most commonly observed in older dogs, those in the 8-plus age range, although middle-aged dogs may also be affected. Also, it is more commonly seen in large dogs. Experts suggest that changes in the flow, production, or absorption of fluid in the semicircular canal, or anything that could cause the nerves in the inner ear to igniting could contribute to the development of GVS.

Clinical signs

Dogs with GVS will experience a sudden loss of balance, sometimes falling to one side, or an inability to stand. They have a tilt of the head, most often to the affected side, and they show rapid lateral eye movements (known as nystagmus). Most of these dogs will not be able to eat or drink without help, or will not want to because they are nauseous. GVS is often mistaken for a stroke or seizure.


Vets often describe canine vestibular disease “idiopathic”, which means that it is an unknown cause. As mentioned above, older dogs have a higher chance of contracting the disease and causes are generally linked to age. However, some dogs show symptoms of the disease when they are very young because it is congenital. While some causes of the disease are more serious conditions, such as the presence of tumors or polyps, the cause of inflammation of the disease is often seen as a simple response to the presence of infectious microbes in the body.

Geriatric vestibular syndrome in dogs


The diagnosis is largely based on clinical signs and the history provided by the dog owner to the veterinarian. Sometimes, tests such as blood chemistry and complete blood count, x-rays, or magnetic resonance imaging will be done to rule out major and serious causes.


Treatment of geriatric vestibular disease is primarily symptomatic. In a severe episode, the dog may need to be hospitalized, placed on intravenous fluids, and given medication to control vomiting. Steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs can be used. If an ear infection is suspected, the dog can be put on antibiotics. In a less severe case, the animal may be able to be treated at home. The owner may need to help the dog get up regularly, and get out, and may need to feed the dog by hand.


According to Dr. WB Thomas, a neurologist at the University of Tennessee, the prognosis for dogs with geriatric vestibular disease is very good, often without treatment in mild cases. Clinical signs like loss of balance and rapid eye movements start to improve within 72 hours. The vomiting stops and the appetite returns. Head tilt may be slower to improve, with dogs having a slight tilt the rest of their lives.

Vestibular Geriatric Syndrome (GVS)

Old dog vestibular disease recurrence

Most dogs don’t experience a relapse, but when they do, the relapse is usually more severe than the first occurrence. When the vestibular tissue becomes inflamed, this impairs the dog’s balance logic, which causes the dog to tilt its head, walk in an awkward manner, or lose the ability to walk altogether. Many dogs who recover from the disease have had a slight tilt of the head for some time afterward. After the relapse, some of them will actually have this tilt of the head change sides.


People often mistake canine vestibular disease for a stroke, because tilting the head and staggering are symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms of a stroke. This is also because the disease often appears in older dogs, who are, in fact, at high risk of having a stroke anyway.

Old dog vestibular disease recurrence concerns

Although the disease appears to be serious because it can severely impair mobility, it is not life threatening, and although the relapses are usually more severe than the starting point, they will still usually pass within a few days. However, if a relapse does occur, especially within a few weeks of the first instance, it can be a sign of a more serious underlying disease, such as brain cancer.

Take good care of your dog


Take good care of your dog by providing food and water and keeping him clean, as he may not be able to walk at all. For secondary causes of the disease, such as a common infection, this may be all that is needed. In the case of a more serious infection or tumor, you will need a veterinarian to appropriately diagnose and treat the condition.

chances of dog surviving leptospirosis

Are chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis good?

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by … Leptospires. This is a serious disease that threatens our dogs, especially those living outdoors, but can also affect humans. What are the chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis? Find out in the following paragraphs.

Dogs catch leptospirosis directly, through contact with rodents, but above all indirectly, by drinking or bathing in fresh water contaminated with rat urine (or nutria, or dog, etc.), carrier and excretor of leptospires.

Leptospirosis essentially results in kidney damage (sharp increase in urea and creatinine leading to depression, vomiting, etc.), and liver damage (leading to jaundice, etc.). It is relatively easy to kill leptospires with antibiotics, but damage to the kidneys, and more rarely the liver, can be irreversible. Chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis are typically 50%.

Leptospirosis vaccine is routinely included in all vaccination programs. Its effectiveness is incomplete, but it still reduces the risk of catching the disease, and of developing the most serious forms.

chances of being cured from leptospirosis

The bacteria

Leptospires (from the Greek: leptos = fine, delicate, and speira = loop, spiral), are helical bacteria. There are 17 species of these bacteria, (and more than 230 serovars), more or less dangerous, and more or less specific to a species of mammal. For example, Leptospira interrogans, of the serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae, is found mainly in rats and nutria. Leptospires can survive for weeks or months in a favorable environment (shaded area, temperature above 25 ° C, water with low acidity and low salinity).

The transmission

Leptospires can persist for a very long time in the kidneys of a multitude of animals (all kinds of rodents, dogs, horses, ruminants, pigs, etc.), before being eliminated (disseminated) with the urine of these animals. They will meet again in the surface waters of lakes, rivers and ponds, but also in muddy fields and puddles along the roads.

Dogs get infected most often through this urine, by drinking or bathing in puddles, or in an area of standing water in a river, for example. There can also be contamination through direct contact with an infected rodent. The majority of cases are diagnosed between July and December. Dogs can be affected regardless of their age. Large dogs are more often infected (probably due to a more rustic lifestyle), and there is a predisposition of the German Shepherd to develop more severe forms of leptospirosis.

dog swimming in a lake


The incubation period typically lasts 4 to 12 days, but the disease sometimes manifests itself only a couple of days after infection. Some dogs die within a few hours (acute form). Early symptoms are fever, depression, decreased appetite, joint or muscle pain, haemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and/or eye and nasal discharge.

Within a few days, kidney failure is observed in 80-90% of these dogs, resulting in vomiting, dehydration, sometimes pain in the kidney area from nephritis, and also ulcers or necrosis of the tongue because of uremia. In the most serious cases, the dog no longer emits urine at all (anuria during acute renal failure), but in less severe cases, on the contrary, we may observe increased thirst and more frequent urination.

Jaundice develops in 20% of leptospirosis cases due to cholestasis (defective bile flow), and/or liver necrosis (yellow coloration of the skin of the stomach and the gum). In some cases, there are pulmonary hemorrhages, uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye) and pneumonia. The progression can extend into hepatitis or chronic renal failure. Finally, some infected dogs may not show any symptoms, while still shedding leptospires!

dog at risk of catching leptospirosis

Chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis:

The diagnosis

Leptospirosis is suspected when a dog, often young, having access to the outside with the possibility of drinking in puddles, suddenly presents an illness (fever, severe depression, etc.) accompanied by acute renal failure (urea and greatly increased creatinine), and sometimes hepatic insufficiency (jaundices) from an increase in bilirubin and liver enzymes. The presence of glucosuria (glucose in the urine), reflecting tubulopathy (damage to the renal tubules), reinforces the suspicion.

There are then two ways to confirm the diagnosis:


This is the most traditional method. It consists in integrating in the serum of the dog, antibodies against the different species of leptospires. However, this is a challenge as there are a lot of types of leptospires, so volume of tests required is massive.

The diagnosis may be positive from the vaccine, which produces antibodies or it may reflect a past infection as opposed to the dog’s current illness (but this is all taken into account in the interpretation of the test). Finally, since it takes at least seven to ten days for the dog to start producing antibodies, the serology can prove negative in the early days of the infection, and only become positive during convalescence.

dog drinking water in a puddle


This is a technique recently developed, which consists in revealing the DNA of the leptospire, in the blood or urine of the dog. Finding leptospira DNA in the urine of a dog with compatible symptoms is evidence that the animal is having leptospirosis. In addition, PCR is more effective at detecting the disease earlier in the infection periody.

The excretion of leptospires in the urine, and their circulation in the blood, is inconsistent. On the other hand, when the dog is already under antibiotic treatment, which lowers the amount of leptospires in a dog’s body, the test will likely be negative.

The two techniques are therefore complementary. Instead, PCR will be used in a recently ill dog who has not yet received antibiotics, and serology is preferred in a dog that has been infected for a longer time and has already been under some form of treatment. In some cases, the two methods may be used in parallel.

Chances of a dog surviving leptospirosis: the treatment

The elimination of the bacteria by antibiotics does not pose too many problems. Typically, an injection of a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate for fifteen days will destroy the circulating leptospires. Then, doxycycline is administered for fifteen days to reach the leptospires camouflaged in the tissues (especially the tubules renal) and prevent to chronic carriage.

The treatment of the disease, as a whole, is much more complicated. The kidneys (and the liver to a lesser extent), are often seriously affected, sometimes irreversibly destroyed. In some cases, urea and creatinine begin to drop after a few days, indicating healing of the kidneys. In other cases, the dog does not urinate despite the infusion of large amounts of fluids, and edema appears. The prognosis then becomes quite negative. In these cases, only dialysis would save time and buy enough time for a possible renal recovery, but this specialized equipment is only available in a handful of veterinary hospitals.

In a recent study conducted in Lyon, France, on 37 dogs treated with leptospirosis, 22 (59%) were returned to their owners, while 15 (40 %) died or had to be euthanized. Three more dogs passed away due to kidney or liver damage in the months following their release. Therefore, it can be argued that half of the animals died of leptospirosis.

dog walking in stagnant water


You can obviously try to prevent your dog from drinking in puddles, but it is not always easy. (If we know that a stagnant water point is invaded by rodents, we can at least choose another place to walk).

Leptospirosis vaccine is included in routine dog vaccination programs. It is given as two injections in the first year (the first injection after the age of three months), followed by an annual booster.

It is less effective than other vaccines for diseases such as distemper and parvovirus, for two reasons. First, its effect is relatively short (about ten months), creating the need for the most exposed dogs (military dogs, dogs which hunt in the marshes), to receive three injections of the primary vaccination instead of two (always after the age of three months), and a booster injection every six months, instead of once a year.

In addition, the vaccine is made from two strains of leptospires (Leptospira icterohaemorragiae and Leptospira canicola) which are not as much common as before while it does not protect very well against other types of leptospires (Leptospira australis, L. autumnalis…) which are encountered more and more often!

While it is an imperfect vaccine, it nevertheless reduces the risk of catching the disease and of developing the more serious forms.

What is the risk for humans?

Leptospirosis is a zoonosis. According to a study conducted in 2008 by the World Health Organization, there are between 320,000 and 500,000 human cases reported across the world each year and 10% resulted in death.

dog in a mud puddle

Humans become contaminated when one of their mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eye), or the skin (typically a wound), is in contact with the secretions of an infected animal. A rodent bite is also a major cause. The disease is primarily observed in people working in an environment with stagnant water where infected rodents have urinated.

But many human contaminations simply result from swimming in fresh water, fishing or boating. In 1998, 11% of the 834 athletes who competed in the Springfield, Illinois triathlon contracted leptospirosis while swimming in the local lake!

If leptospirosis in a dog is suspected, owners (and nursing staff) should therefore take precautions when handling the animal, and particularly its urine, by wearing gloves, washing their hands after any handling and disinfection of areas where the dog has hung around or urinated.