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WHO GETS SICK?
Leptospirosis is a disease that can affect humans, dogs, and several species of livestock. Cats, are the lucky ones, as the disease in this species is quite rare and when it occurs symptoms appear to be mild.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Rodents are the most important creature in transmitting disease. Other creatures such as squirrels, possums, raccoons, skunks, and deer as well as farm animals may also be carriers. The bacteria lives in the urine of carrier animals, in contaminated standing or slow moving water, or moist soil environments. Leptospira can penetrate the soft tissues of the nose, mouth, and eyelids, and be transmitted through open sores.
But I hear you thinking—my dog is not at risk–am I right??!!
We have to think about the commonplace risks for you and your pet
According to Richard Goldstein DVM, DACVIM, a leptospirosis expert and chief medical officer at the Animal Medical Center, said “The data that we have now suggests inner city urban dogs are just as likely to get leptospirosis as dogs in rural communities, and small dogs are just as likely to get it as large dogs” (American Veterinarian. April 11, 2017).
HOW SERIOUS IS IT FOR ME AND/OR MY DOG?
People and dogs may experience flu-like symptoms and the disease in some can cause severe injury to the kidneys and/or liver sometimes leading to death. Others, with low grade infections, get better but can become chronic carriers of the disease.
LEPTOSPIROSIS IS BECOMING MORE COMMON IN DOGS. WHY?
Global warming providing more warm puddles/pools of water and moist soil environments. Encroachment of humans into wildlife habitat, lack of vaccination, and outbreaks in certain regions where rainfall is higher, hurricanes, or other forces of nature that lead to flooding. I’m sure you may know a rescue dog who moved to Iowa after hurricane Katrina or other such disaster. These dogs could’ve been exposed to disease and moved after becoming infected.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY DOG?
1) Vaccination is the best way because dogs will be dogs and for many, it is impossible or impractical to avoid some common risk factors.
2) Awareness of risk factors is still important. Consider risks when swimming or spending time in or around stagnant, warm water and minimize contact with farm animals, wildlife, rodents, and wild animal carcasses.
BUT WHAT ABOUT VACCINE RISKS?
If you spend anytime on the internet contemplating Dr. Google’s latest vaccine recommendations, then you may become aware that the leptospirosis vaccine of years ago did have a higher incidence of adverse reactions. There has been great advancements in the science of production and purification for all vaccinations including the lepto vaccine.
What does that mean?
The vaccine works better and has fewer proteins to which a pet can have an adverse reaction to.
What does it mean we when say “adverse reactions”?
This encompasses the following:
So as you can see adverse signs can range from very mild to very severe signs.
Just what exactly are the adverse reaction rates to the leptospirosis vaccine?
The exact answer is impossible to report because often multiple vaccinations are given at the same time. In November of 2015, The Journal of the American Medical Association published that “hypersensitivity reactions were rare 6.5/10,000 dogs and incidence rates for these events did not differ significantly between dogs that were vaccinated with or without a leptospira component”. (Journal of the American Medical Association. Incidence Rates and Risk Factors For Owner Reported Adverse Events For Dogs That Were Vaccinated With Or Without A Leptospira Component).
This information was consistent with statistics from the British Veterinary Association which had found fewer than seven adverse reactions per 10,000 doses of leptospirosis 4 way vaccine sold. Therefore, the overall adverse vaccine reaction rate as a percentage was .069%
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FOR YOUR DOG?
When we see adverse events in our practice, the most common ones are mild although a very few have been severe. Please feel free to ask our doctors if your are unsure about having your dog vaccinated.
We want to make sure we cover your best friend from a potentially life threatening disease!
We love caring for your furry friends and hope to see you soon!
Sheri Morrissey DVM