Dog-killing bacteria reported in central Indiana: What you need to know about Leptospirosis

HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. -- A dangerous and highly contagious bacteria that can be deadly to pets and humans has been reported in central Indiana.

Animal experts are urging dog owners to keep their pets away from streams, lakes and any standing water – all places where Leptospirosis is most likely to spread.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect both humans and animals.

Molly Ellis with the Hendricks County Humane Society said the bacteria often comes from the urine of rodents or other animals and can be easily spread when it rains. 

“I know from reading some of the CDC reports here that they have tested wildlife - which is how it normally spreads - in all Indiana counties and every single county came up positive for it,” said Ellis. 

According to the CDC, the bacteria can survive in the water or soil for weeks to months after contamination.

“The dog picks up the bacteria, usually on their paws, and they ingest it when they lick their feet. Then they touch you, and then you touch your mouth, and it causes severe organ damage,” said Ellis. “It can be fatal in dogs and people.”

The bacteria can enter the body through the nose, mouth, eyes or through "a break in the skin," according to the CDC. 

It can take up to 21 days for symptoms of Leptospirosis to appear. 

Some of the most common symptoms of Leptospirosis in pets include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Inability to have puppies

Some of the most common symptoms of Leptospirosis in humans include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

The illness can last from a few days to three weeks or longer and can be deadly if it goes untreated. 

Animal experts recommend getting your dog vaccinated for Leptospirosis, although it is not one of the common "core" vaccines. 

The Leptospirosis vaccine does have a high reaction rate - so make sure you consult your veterinarian about the risks before you get your dog vaccinated. 

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