Illustrated Articles

Dogs + Infectious Diseases

  • Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira. The disease causes serious damage to the kidney and liver, and may be fatal in severe cases. Severely infected dogs show signs of lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. Dogs may develop jaundice. There are several tests for diagnosing leptospirosis, but the two most common ones are the DNA-PCR test and the microscopic agglutination test (MAT). Infection can be diagnosed with either test, but each has weaknesses, and in some situations both tests may be needed to reach a diagnosis.

  • Lyme disease is a growing concern as ticks migrate. It often presents as a lameness but can also show up as kidney failure. Treatment with one of the following antibiotics doxycycline, amoxicillin, or azithromycin lasts for 4 weeks. Preventives are available to help protect your dog from this disease.

  • Melioidosis is a bacterial infection that is typically associated with tropical regions. The bacteria that causes melioidosis, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is usually found in soil and water. It is introduced to these areas when it is shed in the milk, feces, urine, or wound drainage of infected animals. In dogs, melioidosis can cause a variety of clinical signs. It mimics a number of other diseases; therefore, it is sometimes referred to as the great imitator. Treatment of melioidosis requires prolonged courses of antibiotics. The organism is resistant to many antibiotics, meaning that specific, expensive antibiotics may be required.

  • Parvo, or canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a relatively new disease that appeared for the first time in dogs in 1978. Because of the severity of the disease and its rapid spread through the canine population, CPV has aroused a great deal of public interest. Two slightly different strains of canine parvovirus, named CPV-2a and CPV-2b, are recognized. They cause the same disease and vaccines give protection against both.

  • The Ebola virus is very contagious and is transmitted through blood, body fluids and tissues, but not through air, water, or food. Ebola affects humans, non-human primates, and is carried by fruit bats. Other species do not appear to be affected although there has been evidence of exposure to the disease in dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Domestic animals are not believed to transmit the virus; however, there is a risk that they could transmit body fluids such as saliva on their fur to other humans. Any potential exposure to Ebola should be reported to your veterinarian who will contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

  • COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease that was initially discovered late in 2019. This disease is caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified in humans. Physical distancing, or social distancing, is one of the most effective strategies available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While physical distancing, walking your dog is fine as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect physical distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed.

  • Pythiosis is the result of being infected by a water mold called Pythium insidiosum. This organism can affect the gastrointestinal tract or the skin.

  • Rabies is one of the most devastating viral diseases affecting mammals, including dogs and humans. It is a fatal disease caused by infection with the rabies virus. Rabies virus is found throughout the world, including North America, Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Europe. Following a bite from a rabid animal, the disease progresses in stages. Dumb rabies is the more common form in dogs. There is progressive paralysis involving the limbs, distortion of the face and a similar difficulty in swallowing. Vaccination is the cornerstone of rabies prevention.

  • Ringworm is the common name given to a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails. The common name of ringworm is somewhat misleading, in that it is not an infection caused by a worm, and the infected areas are not always ring-shaped. In the dog, ringworm lesions usually appear as areas of hair loss (alopecia) that are roughly circular.

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is spread by various species of ticks and is not confined just to the Rocky Mountain regions of North America. Clinical signs can be non-specific and cover multiple body systems. Early diagnosis and treatment gives the best prognosis for recovery after treatment with antibiotics. Prevention of tick bites and prompt removal of ticks is important.