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Clinical and epidemiological features of canine leptospirosis in North Queensland



Objective  To evaluate the clinical signs, results of clinical pathology and serology tests, and treatment outcome of clinical leptospirosis in 40 dogs from North Queensland.

Design  Retrospective study from January 1995 to August 1999.

Procedure  Case records were reviewed for age, breed, sex, month of submission, geographical location and presenting clinical signs in 40 dogs with titres of ≥ 200 for leptospirosis by the microscopic agglutination test. A biochemistry panel and complete blood count were performed on 18 dogs.

Results  Canine leptospirosis occurred most frequently during the summer and autumn particularly in the ‘wet’ tropical coastal areas of Mackay and Cairns. Fewer cases were seen in the Atherton Tablelands and ‘dry’ tropics around Townsville. Young and male dogs were more commonly affected. Most cases were caused by L australis (80%) and L zanoni (15%) with individual cases of L hardjo and L copenhageni. All dogs showed a distinctive multiorgan disease pattern including renal failure and cholestatic hepatopathy. Presenting clinical signs were related to these disease syndromes and included jaundice, vomiting, lethargy, inappetence, dehydration, pyrexia, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Just over 50% of the dogs in the present study failed to recover. Clinical biochemical changes indicative of renal failure and cholestasis were significantly less severe in dogs that recovered compared with dogs that did not survive.

Conclusions  Clinical pathology testing should be performed on all dogs presented for illness in the endemic areas so as to help make a presumptive diagnosis and assist in determining the prognosis as soon as possible. The presumptive diagnosis should be confirmed serologically.