Leptospirosis – What is it and do I really need to vaccinate my dog against this?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wild animals. Raccoons, opossums, mice, voles, deer, foxes, squirrels, and skunks can all spread this bacterium, so this infection can be spread in virtually any type of neighborhood around the world and can be in your own backyard. Dogs become infected when they come in contact with infected wild animal urine through damaged skin or ingestion and can start showing signs of disease in just 4-12 days. The kidneys and liver are commonly affected the most by leptospirosis and signs that you may notice at home include lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, changes in urination, and jaundice (yellow color of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eye).
To diagnose leptospirosis, basic bloodwork may show elevations in kidney and/or liver values that will prompt us to perform additional laboratory testing of the urine and blood to confirm the presence of disease. Prompt antibiotic and supportive care is necessary; however, even with treatment, permanent damage to affected organs can occur and even death. What makes this disease more concerning is the fact that it is zoonotic, meaning it can be spread from infected pets to us!
Knowing just how serious leptospirosis infection can be for both our pets and our own health we recommend vaccinating against leptospirosis. There are many different serovars (species of the bacteria) and the vaccine we administer protects against the four most common serovars. After a initial two-part booster series, yearly boosters are recommended and can be done as a vaccine that is by itself or combined with the distemper and parvovirus vaccine.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask us at your next appointment!
This Blog post written by Dr. Angela Mitas