From the Desk of Dr. Marc Smith…
A Question for the Doctor:
Should I Vaccinate My Dog for Leptospirosis?
I have a n 8 year old mixed breed house dog. I have heard a lot of rumors on the news that lepto is a new and potentially deadly illness and there is a vaccine for lepto. Can u please explain? Thank you!
Dr. Smith’s Reply:
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic and often fatal disease in dogs. Recently the news has reported that there have been a string of leptospirosis cases in dogs. Leptospirosis survives in a warm and humid climate. This makes the Tennessee area a good source for leptospirosis infection but it is rare that is a huge cause for concern.
Owners and those that handle animals must be aware that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease or is transmissible from animals to humans. This is also true for anyone of the general population that may come into contact with wildlife urine or stagnant water that could be contaminated. Many of our clients have called with concerns about whether to vaccinate their pets for leptospirosis or not.
The risk factors to your pet contracting this disease are as follows:
• Exposure to wildlife or the urine of wildlife
• Stagnant water like ponds or areas that hold water and water runoff after heavy rains
• Rodent infestation as rats are carriers of leptospirosis.
Common house dogs do not need to be concerned the risk of leptospirosis infection if the above criteria are not part of their environment.
The signs of leptospirosis in dogs are listed below for owners that are concerned about the disease:
- Signs occur 4-12 days after exposure
- The liver and kidneys are affected and infected animals can shed lepto in the urine for a year after treatment
- Fever is the first symptom
- Joint or muscle pain
- Decreased appetite
- Frequent urination that may contain blood
- Yellowing of the mucous membranes
Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics but best that your pet be hospitalized with intravenous fluids and quarantined to prevent the spread of infection through contact of infected urine.
The risk of vaccinating your pet for leptospirosis is far greater than them actually becoming infected with the disease . There have been numerous reports of anaphylactic shock and death with the administration of the vaccine in pets. This is the main reason most veterinarians do not recommend the vaccine as the incidence of actual cases of leptospirosis in pets is minimal compared to other illnesses.
Marc Smith DVM
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