Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease cause by a bacteria that is spread through the urine of infected wild and domestic animals. It survives outside in environments that are moist, warm alkaline environments especially standing water. Under certain conditions it can stay viable for months. The reservoir hosts, which means the animals most likely to shed the bacteria in the urine or other body fluids, are rodents such as rats and mice, cattle, raccoons, possum, pigs, and dogs. Pets typically become infected by coming into contact with substances that have been contaminated by the urine of reservoir hosts, including water, soil, and bedding. Pets may also contract the disease by close contact or ingestion of infected host tissues or even bite wounds from these hosts.
Therefore, the animals most at risk are those that are dogs taken to dog parks, working dogs, hunting dogs or dogs exposed to areas where wildlife or livestock exist. Once exposed to the bacteria, infection ensues and the animal will usually get sick within a week or two. Symptoms can vary from sudden death to painful joints and muscles. However, most animals that are sick have damage to their kidneys and liver. Antibiotics can help save these pets. It is also known to be difficult to diagnose. Both antibody and PCR assays can help with diagnosis.
If you feel your dog is at risk, you should vaccinate the dog with our 4-Serovar Lepto Vaccine and administer a booster vaccine in 3 weeks followed by an annual vaccine thereafter. We do not advocate the vaccine for all pets especially those who are mainly housed inside and not exposed to these reservoir hosts or their urine. Owners should be aware that although the vaccine does not protect against all serovars this bacteria, the vaccine contains four of the most common types of lepto serovars that infect dogs. According to ACVIM consensus statement, vaccines are known to be safe and effective for the majority of the animals.
So at Abby Pet Hospital, we think all pets should be vaccinated against Distemper, Parvo virus, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza and Rabies. Additionally, animals at risk for Leptospirosis should be vaccinated.