Spring Fever and Leptospirosis

Spring is finally here and warm(er) weather is upon us!  With that said, one thing that comes along with spring is Leptospirosis, more commonly known as Lepto.   Many doggy parents wonder whether or not they should be getting their “kids” vaccinated for Lepto, primarily because it is not considered a core vaccine like the Rabies and DA2PPV vaccines (Distemper, Adenovirus 2, Parvo and Parainfluenza Viruses).  Therefore, it is not required that all dogs receive the Lepto vaccine, regardless of lifestyle.  So, one may ask, how do I determine whether or not my dog needs the vaccine?  It may help to understand how a dog may contract Lepto.

Lepto is carried by wildlife (specifically rats, raccoons, fox, skunks, opossums, cattle and pigs) and transmitted through urine that contaminates water sources. So, with spring in the air, animals are out and about, rather than hibernating and taking shelter through the cold weather. The disease can stay infectious in soil for up to six months and can be found both in country and city settings.  A dog may become infected by sniffing the urine of an infected animal, drinking contaminated water or by wading and/or swimming in contaminated water. The disease can also be spread through a bite wound or from eating infected materials.  More cases occur after heavy rainfall because the running rain water carries the infected water from one spot to another.

If you take your dog hiking, to dog parks, or have your dog spend time in the yard without supervision he can easily contract this disease.  A fenced in yard may prevent access to outside water sources for your dog, but the little critters that carry Lepto can easily find a way to get in…which means their urine can be found in the soil and therefore in the puddles of water that form when it rains.   And who is going to drink from these puddles when no one is looking???…..you got it…your dog!!!

Some of the symptoms that your dog may demonstrate when falling ill to the disease are:

  • high feversleptospirosis-indiana11
  • joint pain
  • depression
  • vomiting
  • progressive weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • excessive thirst and urination

However, these symptoms are also symptoms of many other illnesses and diseases which make Lepto a difficult disease to diagnose.  Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can quickly spread to your dog’s liver, spleen and kidney.  If not treated in time, the dog has an increased risk of dying due to kidney failure or other complications.  . Luckily cats are naturally resistant to Lepto, but unfortunately we humans are not. Lepto is considered a Zoonotic disease, which means it can also be spread to humans.

So unless you have a very small dog who is almost completely kept indoors, and does not come into contact with other dogs or animals who may have contracted Lepto, it is probably a good idea to get your dog vaccinated.  The benefits far exceed the risks, and serious complications from vaccines, in general, are rare.  Side effects can occur, as they can with any vaccine, but they are rarely life threatening.  Furthermore, if a dog is known to have a history of reacting to vaccines he can be pretreated prior to vaccination.  If you have any further questions regarding Leptospirosis and/or the vaccination do not hesitate to contact our office.  We are always here to help!