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By Dr. Anne Ward
Published: May 07, 2014


Here at VCA Redwood Animal Hospital we have treated several confirmed cases of leptospirosis infection in dogs in recent months. Leptospirosis is a major public health concern, as it is a disease that can be transmitted to people through contact with the urine or tissues of infected pets. Although traditional dogma has supported vaccination of “at risk pets” we have observed leptospirosis infection in pets with minimal behavioral lifestyle factors thought to increase risk of infection. For those who are unfamiliar with leptospirosis, we ask that you read the information below, and consider leptospirosis vaccination for your dog.


What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease of dogs and other mammals that is caused by the bacteria Leptospirosis interrogans and Leptospirosis kirschneri. There are over 200 different strains of Leptospirosis bacteria. Each strain is called a serovar. Infection with leptospirosis is often fatal due to kidney and liver failure that occurs with this disease. In surviving dogs, permanent kidney damage is common. It is also a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be passed from animals to people.

Leptospirosis is spread in the urine of infected animals. Many wildlife species, including rodents and skunks can carry the infection. The bacteria can survive for weeks or months in moist soil or standing water. Dogs are usually exposed when they drink from contaminated puddles or have contact with contaminated soil.

Which Dogs Should Receive The Leptospirosis Vaccine?

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) has suggested that all dogs at risk of leptospirosis infection should receive the leptospirosis vaccine. Lifestyle factors that can influence the risk of infection include spending time outside and exposure to wildlife and standing water. The risk of leptospirosis infection varies greatly by geographical region. Leptospirosis is most common in areas of high annual rainfall and warmer climates. In the U.S., peak incidence of infection occurs in the late fall. According to the ACVIM, areas of high leptospirosis prevalence in dogs in the U.S. include Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, the Midwest parts of Texas and Colorado, and the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast regions. In areas where suburban and urban dogs are commonly infected, all dogs, (not just those with an outdoor lifestyle), should be considered at risk. For this reason, most dogs in the Puget Sound region should be considered candidates for vaccination.


How Is The Leptospirosis Vaccine Administered?

The leptospirosis vaccine is given by a simple injection under the skin. It is initially given in two doses, spaced 3-4 weeks apart. After the initial doses, the leptospirosis vaccine is repeated every 12 months.


Is The Leptospirosis Vaccine 100% Effective?

The leptospirosis vaccine is not 100% effective, but it is proven to significantly reduce the likelihood of leptospirosis infection in dogs. One limitation of the leptospirosis vaccine is that it only covers 4 serovars (strains) of the bacteria: Icterohaemorrhagiae, Canicola, Grippotyphosa, and Pomona. These serovars are among the most common strains thought to infect dogs. There is also evidence that the leptospirosis vaccine provides some cross-protection against other leptospirosis serovars.

Is The Leptospirosis Vaccine Safe?

Despite anecdotal reports of an increased risk of adverse reactions to the leptospirosis vaccine, especially in small breed dogs, the incidence of these reports seems to be decreasing. In a 2005 scientific study of vaccine reactions, dogs were no more likely to experience an adverse reaction to the leptospirosis vaccine than to other vaccines.
 

Please feel free to call our office for more information. 

 

Sincerely, 

The Doctors and Staff at VCA Redwood Animal Hospital

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