Leptospirosis: Treatment, symptoms, and types


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs and people and other mammals as well. It is a disease that can if ongoing untreated can cause very significant and even fatal kidney disease and liver disease. It is contracted by contact with water that is contaminated and almost any mammal can spread it. The most common ones are mice, rats, rodents, and raccoons are common so they will urinate in a puddle or a stream or a pond and then the dog will lick that water or play in that water or splashing in their eye and can get this bacterial infection in that way.

It is really hard to narrow it down. Every animal is at risk of getting this infection as the contaminated water is everywhere and these animals can come into contact with water and they can get the disease and leptospirosis is becoming common.

What are the indicators of Leptospirosis?

Symptoms in an Animal

A few days after exposure they will just kind of feeling lethargic and they will lie around and they probably won’t want to eat. They might start to vomit and they might drink more and urinate more and those are nonspecific signs. But the key is anything that you notice changes in your pet like their behavior or changes in appetite.

Symptoms in Human

Humans show the symptoms of this bacterial infection suddenly or after five to fourteen days. The symptoms depend on the area the infection spread.

A high temperature of a body, chills, jaundice, hard bowel movements, vomiting, pain in the head, irritated eyes, rashes, and pain in the muscle are considered as the mild symptoms of leptospirosis.

Exhaustiveness, jaundice, rapid heartbeat, sudden changes in weight, pain in the muscles, swelling of the hands, nausea, swelling of the feet or ankles, bleeding from the nose, loss of appetite, panting, and tightness in the chest and experiencing pain are considered as the signs and symptoms when the infection affects the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Confusion or disorientation, abnormal behavior, feeling sleepy all the time, vomiting, fits or seizures, difficulty in speaking, high temperature of the body, stiffness in the neck, photophobia or sensitivity to light, and problems with physical movements are the symptoms of the infection spread to the brain and spinal cord.

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor or a therapist immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above. Your doctor should evaluate you for other possible causes of your symptoms before treating leptospirosis. Together, you and your doctor can determine the best way to manage your symptoms.

What are the types of Leptospirosis?

As per medical health professionals, this bacterial infection is categorized into two types mainly. It includes

  • Mild leptospirosis
  • Severe leptospirosis

Let’s discuss the above types in detail:

Mild Leptospirosis

It is the most common type in animals and humans. The symptoms of this type include

  • Pain in the muscles
  • Chills
  • Pain in the head

Severe Leptospirosis

This type refers to when the infection spreads to the major organs of the body such as liver, kidneys and it can lead to organ failure, internal hemorrhaging, and even cause death. Few people experience this type of leptospirosis.

Early detection and prompt treatment can bring back your normal life quickly. People with pneumonia are more likely to develop severe leptospirosis or people who are above the age of sixty years.

What are the causes of leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is caused due to bacteria and contaminated water. Many animals are infected by this bacterium. These animals include

  • Wild animals
  • Rodents
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Pigs
  • Horses
  • Cattle

These infected animals contaminate water by urinating then these bacteria will infect humans. This condition might become severe in humans if he or she is diagnosed with pneumonia.

What are the risk factors of leptospirosis?

People who work in animal farms are more prone to develop this condition. Due to this reason, people call it an occupational disease.

Farmers, miners, military personnel, veterinarians, sewer workers, freshwater fishermen, rodent control workers, butchers who work closely with dead animals, and people who bathe in freshwater lakes, rivers, or canals also have an increased risk of getting diagnosed with leptospirosis.

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

The early symptoms are nonspecific and this makes it a challenge to diagnose as the symptoms look like flu and other regular infections. If your healthcare provider suspects that you have leptospirosis, then he or she may ask a piece of detailed information about the symptoms you are experiencing in the past few days. If that is not enough, they will run some tests to confirm the diagnosis of this condition. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.

How do physicians treat leptospirosis?

Many treatment options will benefit the patient with less hospital stay and fewer complications but it completely depends on the severity of the disease.

People who are diagnosed with severe leptospirosis that affects the brain, spinal cord, liver, kidneys are advised to join in the hospital, and doctors will keep them in observation for one to two weeks. If you are experiencing respiratory problems, then the patient may shift to the intensive care unit to help them breathe.

Dialysis is necessary to the people if the bacteria affect the kidney. your physician may recommend intravenous fluids to keep you hydrated. The doctor needs to know how the patient is responding to antibiotic treatment.

Pregnant women should take extra measures to prevent this condition. If a pregnant woman is affected by this bacterial infection, then it can affect the fetus. Your physician may recommend the following antibiotics to treat the mild symptoms of leptospirosis. These antibiotics include

  • Doxycycline
  • Penicillin

Nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, pain in the chest, high temperature of the body pain in the head, unable to see, difficulty in breathing or unable to breathe, and throat irritation are the common side effects of the above drugs.

The above side effects can occur at any time during medication use. It is advised to consult a physician when you are experiencing the side effects of these drugs. Your physician may change the dosage of the medication or switch you to another one.

How do you prevent leptospirosis?

Preventing this bacterial infection is easy to do especially if you know the symptoms or have had it before. The following are the steps to prevent this condition.

  • Always wash your hands with soap after coming into contact with animals.
  • Don’t touch dead animals
  • Always be in protective clothing during work
  • Do not drink water from rivers and lakes if it is contaminated
  • Avoid swimming in contaminated water
  • Take a bath after swimming
  • Take antibiotics before going to work in disaster zones
  • Attend follow-up appointments with your doctor


If you are experiencing the symptoms that you think is leptospirosis then talk with your physician about what’s going on and they can review with you about your family history and help you to determine what options are best for you.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4574773/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028063/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6085784/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4591975/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442676/

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