Understanding Equine Leptospirosis And Hepatic

Last Updated on June 6, 2022

Leptospirosis is an issue that many people are not familiar with. Understanding equine leptospirosis and hepatic can help horse owners get a better idea of what this entails. Though in many cases it can be mild, in more serious cases it can cause acute kidney failure or liver disease.

Leptospirosis is commonly associated with pregnant mares and unborn foals. By learning the symptoms and causes of leptospirosis, you can get a better understanding of the disease. This can help you learn how to get your horse the right treatment they need.

What Is Equine Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by bacteria that belong to the Leptospira genus. There are around 21 species divided into various groups according to their propensity for causing disease.

In most cases, leptospirosis is associated with the inner part of the eye, also known as uveitis or periodic ophthalmia. In addition, it is also commonly associated with abortion in pregnant mares.

What Is Equine Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis can also be associated with kidney and liver problems in more serious cases. A leptospira infection happens in horses when the organism colonizes the mucous membranes of a horse which then becomes bacteremic.

The bacteremia creates an opportunity for the organism to invade certain organs like the kidneys, placenta, fetus, and eye. It can last for several days, causing a persistent fever, but it generally does not has more serious symptoms.

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What Causes Leptospirosis? Equine Leptospirosis And Hepatic

Leptospirosis is most commonly an issue in horses in North America. The bacteria can survive on different surfaces of water including swamps, streams, and rivers.

Most horses become infected with leptospirosis from urine or urine-contaminated feed or water, as well as drinking from contaminated water or eating from contaminated pastures. Though rare, the transmission of the bacteria can be caused by bite wounds, eating infected tissue, or during birth. Once the bacteria enters the body, it spreads rapidly from the lymph system to the bloodstream, as well as all tissues.

Leptospirosis can be found worldwide, particularly in wet, humid climates. It is a widespread problem, but many times no symptoms will occur.

Signs Of Leptospirosis

In most cases, leptospirosis appears mildly with signs including fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. When leptospirosis causes uveitis, symptoms include squinting, tearing, swelling, and a blueish haze on the eye.

In pregnant mares, leptospirosis can cause abortions, usually from the middle of gestation. In addition, it can also cause premature births, stillbirths, and even nonviable foals. The placenta of a mare with leptospirosis may appear thickened, edematous, and hemorrhagic.

In more serious cases, leptospirosis can lead to low blood counts, jaundice, depression, and weakness. Kidney failure can also occur, particularly in serious cases in foals.

Equine Leptospirosis And Hepatic

Though uncommon, leptospirosis can cause hepatic failure in horses. Hepatic failure refers to the failure of the liver in horses.

Signs of liver disease from leptospirosis include increased drinking and urinating, jaundice, severe lethargy, refusal to eat, dehydration, and even death. Liver problems from leptospirosis are rare but can be very serious in horses. After an incubation period of four to ten days, it can spread to the liver from the bloodstream.

Foals are more susceptible to liver problems from leptospirosis. This occurs generally after the mother has contracted leptospirosis. The liver problems occur as a combination of multifocal necrosis and giant cell hepatopathy.

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Equine Leptospirosis And Abortion

If a mare becomes infected with leptospirosis, it is common for her to abort her foal or give birth to a stillborn. In the unlikely case, that a foal is born, it will likely be premature and it will likely suffer from different health problems.

Abortions from leptospirosis usually occur after nine months or later. Oftentimes, the aborted fetus will likely have liver and kidney lesions. Mares will generally have leptospiral antibody titers and can shed the bacteria of leptospirosis in their urine for two to three months after the abortion.

Treatment And Prevention For Leptospirosis

With the help of your veterinarian, leptospirosis can often be treated. Treatment will be most effective when administered before the eyes or organs receive any damage. Antibiotics and isolation are often used in the treatment of leptospirosis.

When leptospirosis travels to the liver and kidneys, it can cause jaundice. When this happens, your veterinarian will often give your horse antibiotics to rid the leptospirosis from your horse’s system.

Pregnant mares can be isolated and treated with antibiotics, however, abortions may still occur. When leptospirosis causes uveitis, eye medications and anti-inflammatories can be used as treatment.

To prevent the spread of leptospirosis, try to control the rodent and wildlife population where your horse lives, as they can spread it. In addition, avoid letting your horse drink any standing water that may be contaminated with urine. In some cases, vaccines can be given and preventive antibiotics can be given to horses that have been exposed.

Treatment And Prevention For Leptospirosis

Conclusion On Equine Leptospirosis And Hepatic

Leptospirosis is generally mild in horses, however, it can cause liver and kidney problems, uveitis and abortion in pregnant mares. This disease can be found worldwide, but is most common in hot, humid areas.

Do you have any questions regarding equine leptospirosis and hepatic? If so, please ask any questions regarding leptospirosis in horses in the comments.


How Does Leptospirosis Affect Horses?

Generally, leptospirosis affects horses if they have consumed food or water with contaminated urine. It can cause symptoms including fever, lethargy and decreased appetite. In more serious cases it can cause liver and kidney problems, uveitis and abortion in pregnant mares.

What Organs are Affected by Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis can affect the kidney, liver and eyes, though it may also affect other organs. It can also affect the female reproductive system.

Which Animal is the Vector for Leptospirosis?

Many different animals can spread leptospirosis including raccoons, mice, rats, skunks, opossums, dogs and cattle. Horses can also spread leptospirosis to each other.

How Do Horses Get Leptospirosis?

Horses generally get leptospirosis from consuming food or water that has been contaminated with urine from an infected animal. Though uncommon, the transmission of the bacteria can come from bite wounds, eating infected tissue or during birth.