Leptospirosis is commonly known as a “disease of rats”. This name is ironic because rodents are remarkably immune to this bacterial infection that affects both humans and animals.
Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal, and is contagious as long as it is still moist. Rats and mice are primary hosts, but a wide variety of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, raccoons, possums, skunks, and even certain marine mammals are also able to carry and transmit the disease.
Dogs may lick the urine of an infected animal off the grass or soil, or drink from contaminated water. Dogs can also be affected when they come into contact with the skin of an infected animal. There have even been reports of pet dogs contracting the infection by licking urine from infected mice that entered a house.
In an infected dog, the liver and kidney are most commonly affected by leptospirosis. The disease begins with flu-like symptoms. Other signs of this infection include: vomiting, fever, lack of appetite, reduced urine output, unusually dark or brown urine, and lethargic behavior. Vaccines are available for leptospirosis.
Pet cats are an interesting case in regards to this disease. Even though cats come into frequent contact with rodents, they rarely contract the infection. Scientists believe this is an evolutionary development.
See the video for more information about leptospirosis.