Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by Leptospira. Leptospira exists worldwide. There are numerous Leptospira bacteria; 230 have been identified thus far.
Wild animals can spread leptospirosis to dogs. Leptospira can remain in the environment for long periods of time, especially in warm, stagnant water or in moist soil. The bacteria do not tolerate freezing temperatures, so the risk of a dog getting leptospirosis decreases during the winter months. Most cases are seen during the summer and fall when temperatures are warmer.
Dogs usually become infected with leptospirosis through direct contact with the urine of infected animals, such as raccoons, rats, skunks, feral cats, other dogs, and other animals. It's also possible for dogs to become infected with the bacteria by swimming in or drinking contaminated water. Dogs who have contact with contaminated soil can also become infected. The bacteria can penetrate the soft lining of a dog's nose, eyelids, and mouth or enter the body through scratches or open sores on a dog's skin.
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