posted: April 23, 2012
by: Marilyn Cuevas
Tags: "Clinic Specials""News"
Whether or not to vaccinate a dog for leptospirosis is one of the most common questions we hear at Christensen Animal Hospital during the spring and summer. Although leptospirosis can be a challenge to say, it can be an even bigger challenge to treat should your dog become infected with it.
This infection, caused by leptospira bacteria, has been an emerging threat to dogs and their owners alike in the past several years. This infection can cause high fevers, vomiting, jaundice and, in some cases, liver and kidney damage. Chicago has been identified one of the leading hot spots in the United States for leptospirosis infectionsdue to the metropolitan area's high populations of raccoons and rats. In fact, the park districts of Wilmette, Evanston and Chicago all have recently amended their requirements for the dog beaches to include vaccinating for leptospirosis.
But how is it spread? Leptospirosis can be spread by exposure to the urine of an infected animal. Wildlife like rats, skunks, raccoons and other types of rodents can spread infection to other animals through infected urine. Wildlife (or reservoir hosts as they are often called) are asymptomatic carriers of leptospirosis and do not appear ill. Dogs can become infected by being exposed to the infected urine at dog beaches, licking up water with infected urine on the sidewalk or being exposed to the bacteria in the soil. Since the infection is spread by wildlife, the bacteria can go anywhere raccoons, rats and other animals can be found -- including your own backyard. Additionally, leptospirosis is zoonotic, meaning that the bacteria could be spread to humans through exposure to contaminated urine, even from their own dog.
Vaccinating your dog for leptospirosis is key to preventing the spread of infection. But not all vaccinations are alike. Christensen Animal Hospital uses a leptospirosis vaccine that has a very low incidence of reactivity, meaning that there is a low risk of dogs having an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and helps stop the cycle of infection by preventing the dog from shedding the bacteria in their urine should they become infected. Like any vaccine, this vaccine does not protect your pet 100 percent from the threat of infection, but it does offer peace of mind to any dog owner who likes knowing that their dog has at least some form of protection. If your dog has never been vaccinated for leptospirosis before, your veterinarian would examine your pet prior to vaccination and, provided that your pet is healthy, would vaccinate your dog for leptospirosis. Two to three weeks afterwards, your dog would return to the veterinarian for a booster shot for leptospirosis so that the vaccination can be guaranteed effective for one year.
In short, any dog that has the potential to be exposed to leptospirosis, including dogs that frequent boarding kennels and grooming salons, should be vaccinated for it. This vaccine protects dogs, their owners and everyone else that is looking to have some fun in the sun outdoors this summer.