Hepatic leptospiral infections in dogs without obvious renal involvement

Katie E. McCallum*, Fernando Constantino-Casas, John M. Cullen, James H. Warland, Harry Swales, Niamh Linghley, Andre J. Kortum, Alex J. Sterritt, Tristan Cogan, Penny J. Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
602 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Reports of chronic hepatitis in dogs caused by Leptospira spp. are confined to small case series. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) allows the identification of spirochetes in liver samples. Consequently, this technique may help elucidate the role of Leptospira spp. in cases of chronic hepatitis. 

Objectives: To describe cases of hepatic leptospirosis in dogs diagnosed by FISH and subsequent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) speciation, with the absence of clinically relevant renal involvement. 

Animals: Ten client-owned dogs. 

Methods: Retrospective case series from the University of Cambridge presented between 2013 and 2016 or cases consulted by telephone advice during this time period. Cases were selected based on histopathologically confirmed granulomatous hepatitis and leptospiral organisms identified by FISH and PCR speciation (Leptospira interrogans/kirschneri). 

Results: All cases had increased liver enzyme activities, and FISH in combination with PCR speciation-confirmed infection with L. interrogans/kirschneri. Four dogs underwent repeat liver biopsy, FISH and PCR speciation 4-15 months after initial presentation and doxycycline treatment with 1 dog undergoing repeat sampling at necropsy. Three dogs that underwent repeat biopsy remained positive for L. interrogans/kirschneri infection. Six dogs were alive at the time of manuscript preparation and 4 dogs were euthanized as a result of progressive liver disease. 

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: The presence of hepatic leptospiral organisms may be associated with chronic granulomatous hepatitis without clinical evidence of renal involvement. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the etiological role of these organisms in the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date29 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • dog
  • hepatitis
  • Leptospira
  • United Kingdom


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