Leptospirosis cases are on the rise throughout the United States. This has prompted more discussions between owners and veterinarians as to whether the vaccine is recommended for their dog.
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria, and this disease that was once considered only a concern in rural areas has now moved into urban and suburban America. Climate change could be an underlying cause of this spread. Warm, moist environments are prime conditions for the bacteria. This organism can live in soil and water for months.
The bacteria in the genus Leptopspira can exist in raccoons, sheep, bats, mice, rats, cattle, horses, buffalo, pigs and dogs (young dogs and smaller breeds are more prone) This bacteria inhabits the kidneys and is then expelled in the urine. It is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transferred to humans. The disease is establishing itself in urban areas where pets are in close proximity to some wildlife species such as mice, rats and raccoons. These animals are regularly found roaming yards in dense neighborhoods. Leptospirosis cases are found in the Pacific Northwest, with Portland metropolitan area reporting active cases at this time. Areas that flood are prone to harbor the bacteria but also desert areas with lawns that are irrigated can be reservoirs.
Leptospirosis can be difficult to diagnose because of generic symptoms; lethargy, vomiting and anorexia. Also testing for antibodies and PCR can result in negative results depending on the stage of the infection within the body. Sometimes there are no symptoms, but kidney failure and death can come on suddenly.
Today’s vaccine has a reputation of causing only minimal reactions, if any. An initial shot is given, then followed in 2-4 weeks with a booster. After this a booster is required every 12 - 15 months.