Leptospirosis, or lepto, is caused by bacteria called spirochetes which are transmitted through the urine of rats and other infected animals. Nearly half of the wild rat population carries these spirochetes, and dogs and cats can become infected by:
- Eating food contaminated by rat urine
- Eating contaminated rats
- Drinking contaminated water
- Being in contaminated water
Lepto is much more common in dogs than in cats, and it affects males more than females. This bacterial infection is zoonotic, meaning that humans can contract it from their pets, and vice versa. In dogs and cats it can be deadly. People, though, just get severe flu symptoms for up to three weeks. In humans, if not treated, it’s possible that the infection can damage the liver and kidneys if it gets out of hand. In pets, internal hemorrhaging can cause death.
Symptoms can include:
- Sudden fever and illness
- Sore muscles, reluctance to move
- Stiffness in muscles, legs, stiff gait
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid dehydration
- Runny nose
- Spontaneous cough
- Vomiting, possibly with blood
- Diarrhea, possibly with blood
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Abdominal distension
- Difficulty breathing, fast breathing
- Irregular pulse
- Swelling of the mucous membrane
- Mild swelling of the lymph nodes
- Yellowed skin or whites of eyes
- Dark red speckles on gums or mucous membranes (petechiae)
- Increased thirst and urination progressing to inability to urinate, which may be indicative of kidney failure
After an incubation period of five to fifteen days, the disease may have a sudden onset characterized by slight weakness, refusal to eat, vomiting, high temperature, and mild congestion in the eye. Within two days, the temperature drops sharply, depression is more pronounced, breathing becomes labored, and thirst develops. Muscular soreness and rigidity develop, particularly in the sacral region, causing stiffness in the hind legs. The mucous membranes of the mouth first show patches like a graze or burn, which later dry out and drop off in sections. In some cases the tongue may show dead patches of skin and the entire tip may drop off.
In Pat Lazarus’s Keep Your Pet Healthy the Natural Way, famed herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy is quoted as saying, “Healthy dogs do not get leptospiral infections.” She goes on to say that spirochetes infect “the ones reared by unnatural methods.” And Pat Lazarus advises that you keep your pet’s resistance high by “feeding a well balanced raw diet and a natural lifestyle.”
Vaccinations are commonly pushed for leptospirosis, but immunologists warn that even vaccinated dogs can get lepto, and the effects of the vaccine are often worse than contracting the infection. It is much wiser to keep your pet healthy with a proper diet and ample exercise, and to be prepared for a lepto infection. Before you decide to vaccinate, read this article: Smoke and Mirrors. As mentioned in the Homeopathy section below, the leptospirosis nosode may be given as a preventative. In Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn advocates the use of nosodes over vaccinations.
De Bairacli Levy’s treatment for infected pets is an immediate fast with plenty of pure water available. During the fast, the pet is supposed to be dosed morning and night with disinfecting herbs while resting in a comfortably warm room with fresh air. The herbs she gives come in a tablet that consists of garlic, rue, sage, thyme, eucalyptus, wormwood, and vegetable charcoal.
We urge you, however, to contact your holistic veterinarian right away if you suspect your pet has lepto. Depending on your pet’s health, he or she may prescribe antibiotics, which is the conventional treatment. A healthy animal with a strong immune system ought to be able to fight off leptospirosis on its own. But if your pet’s system is compromised, you don’t want to take chances with this disease. For example, if your dog or cat has been on a commercial diet, the kidneys may already be weakened, and you don’t want to chance renal failure, or worse, if the immune system is not strong enough to win the battle against the leptospirosis bacteria. Doxycycline is the usual antibiotic of choice.
Herbal and Naturopathic Help
Vitamin C and Echinacea are well known infection fighting helpers because of their ability to boost the immune system. In addition, olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract, bee propolis, noni, astragalus, and maitaki mushrooms are also used to improve immune function and fight infection. Because of dehydration and increased drinking and urination, you’ll also want to make sure your pet has plenty of fluids. To make up for lost minerals and water soluble vitamins, feeding a broth made from a meaty bone, brown rice, and vegetables can be helpful.
Some experts recommend giving antiseptic herbs to dogs before going to parks and other places where other pets congregate or where there may be rats, as a preventative.
Again, don’t try to treat leptospirosis on your own. We believe this is a disease that is best treated with a mild antibiotic like doxycycline, which you will need to get from your holistic veterinarian. A veterinarian trained in areas such as immunology and naturopathy will know whether to let your pet fight the disease on its own, or whether it ought to have help from an antibiotic.
If you decide to treat leptospirosis homeopathically, you ought to contact a veterinarian trained in homeopathy, and you need to start treatment as soon as possible.
Immediately give Aconitum napellus 12x to allay shock and to limit the progress of the infection.
The leptospirosis nosode may be helpful as a preventative and an alternative to vaccination. It should also be given alongside any of these other remedies as it helps to prevent an infectious buildup in the kidneys, which causes nephritis. (See Kidney Problems).
Give Arsenicum Album 30c to control gastrointestinal symptoms and to help with the dehydration that sets in.
If there are ulcers in the mouth and diarrhea with mucous or blood in it, give Mercurius corrosivus 30c.
Baptisia 30c is often used in classical cases of lepto in which there are putrid excretions and exhalations. It will help with muscular soreness and prostration.
If jaundice appears, give Crotalus horridus 30c to support the liver and to help prevent hemorrhaging.
If there is coughing, give Phosphorus 30c. This will also help the liver and reduce vomiting.
Lycopodium 1m is another treatment that supports the liver.
Berberis vulgaris 30c will support the liver, help the bile mechanism, and help to relieve stiffness and pain in the hind leg area.