Leptospirosis is the world’s leading zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease is a disease that infects animals and people. If your dog is infected with the leptospirosis bacteria, then you are at risk if you come in contact with infected urine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 100-200 cases of leptospirosis in humans are reported in the United States annually. While this may seem low considering the number of people and dogs in the United States, several dogs in Bucks County have been diagnosed with leptospirosis. This means the infection can spread to people in our area as well.
“Within the last 18 months, our veterinarians have referred two cases of leptospirosis confirmed in young dogs to an area specialty hospital for treatment. The best way to prevent this disease in dogs is vaccination. There are misconceptions about the vaccine. It’s important to understand vaccinating against leptospirosis is not new, but the technology behind the vaccine we give is new, making it much safer than it used to be,” said Dr. Lois Palin of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care.
The leptospirosis vaccine used to be given as part of the distemper combination series of vaccines administered to puppies which included distemper virus, adeno virus, parvo virus, and parainfluenza virus. While the leptospirosis vaccine requires an annual booster to remain effective, the other components of the vaccine have a duration of immunity of three years or more, so the leptospirosis vaccine was separated from the series.
An older version of the vaccine did cause unwanted side effects in some dogs, which led to concerns and some individuals recommending against the vaccine. However, the vaccine technology has improved significantly meaning the possibility of a severe reaction is highly unlikely.
“The advantages of vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis certainly outweigh the rare occurrence of a reaction. If left untreated, leptospirosis can lead to kidney or liver failure in dogs, and of course exposure to the bacteria can lead to infection in people. Treatment for your dog at a specialty veterinary hospital can be costly. Even though the vaccine is not part of the distemper combination of vaccinations given to puppies, it is still a vaccine that has traditionally been administered and should continue to be given, “added Dr. Palin.
HOW DOES A PET BECOME INFECTED?
The leptospirosis bacteria are spread through contact with the contaminated urine of infected animals. All animals can be infected, including farm animals and wildlife such as deer, rodents, skunks, and raccoons. The bacteria can survive in water and soil for up to three months. The bacteria can infect you or your pet through mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth, or through a scratch, cut or sore in the skin. Walking and swimming in or drinking water where the leptospirosis bacteria are present can result in infection.
SYMPTOMS OF LEPTOSPIROSIS
Mild symptoms in dogs include:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Weight loss
Your dog should see a veterinarian whenever these symptoms are present. Urine and blood tests can confirm a leptospirosis diagnosis. Treatment includes antibiotics, intravenous fluid therapy, and close monitoring, often in an intensive care unit.
Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care is committed to the lifelong health of furry family members, and to educating pet parents on the care and wellness of their pets. Protecting you and your dog from a serious disease that’s transmitted between animals and humans is important. Our medical staff recommends vaccinating your puppy against leptospirosis. Call 215-345-6000 to schedule an exam and consultation today.
Information about the number of cases of leptospirosis diagnosed in humans can be found on the Center for Disease Control website: search Leptospirosis