Leptospirosis - Still Presenting Problems!
Leptospirosis is a spiral bacterium that can infect animals and sometimes humans. Animals with Lepto shed live bacteria in their urine. Most infections come from contact with water that is contaminated with infected urine. Lepto hates dry environments and is short lived in a desert environment; therefore, watering holes become the main source of infection in dry areas. Wild animals, such as raccoons and rodents, can be carriers of the disease – infected and shedding the bacteria, but not showing clinical signs.
Dogs are generally vaccinated for Leptospirosis once a year with a combination vaccine
. In the past 10 years, many have recommended not using Lepto vaccines in adult breeding dogs, but this has led to a population of animals with no Lepto protection. When you’re deciding if a Lepto vaccination is appropriate for your dogs, you should evaluate the value of protection against the risk of disease. Prevention against Lepto is important for your kennel; however, the Lepto vaccine is more reactive and does increase the risk of reactions to the vaccination.
In a kennel, Lepto is not often noticed or diagnosed unless you are looking for solutions to puppy death – one or two stillborn puppies or a puppy that dies shortly after birth usually aren’t sent for diagnostics. When these losses happen in first or second time mothers, Lepto may be causing the issue. Older mothers don’t often lose these puppies, likely because these mothers get enough natural immunity from infection, preventing loss in later litters.
Lepto abortion storms, where bitches loose whole litters have happened the last two years. Kennels have abandoned vaccination in the past ten years and all females in the kennel have never had a Lepto vaccine. These abortions affect all females (old or young) and they abort whole litters in late gestation. Fetus abortion the last 14 days of pregnancy is suspicious of Lepto. The issue is we usually have several females bred and they will all abort if we do not get the immunity up and quickly. Vaccination of the whole kennel to attain herd immunity will shut the issue down but not before major losses of puppies.
Diagnosis of Lepto is usually based on clinical signs. Titers on mothers after abortion can be diagnostic. If they have a titer and not vaccinated you have the cause. Culturing Lepto bacteria is difficult and often unsuccessful, though new techniques have improved results. Leptospirosis targets the kidneys, liver, and blood vessels, so acute infections can cause kidney failure, vomiting, dehydration, bleeding, and jaundice. Generally kidney and liver issues are not seen with abortions, but seen when a non-pregnant dog becomes infected.
Treatment of Leptospirosis involves IV fluids, antibiotics such as Penicillins
or Doxycycline, and occasionally blood transfusions. Animals with low levels of the organism still carry and shed Leptospira without clinical disease. These carrier infections are difficult to identify. Treatment is important to prevent carriers, even if it looks like the animal has recovered. Infected carriers are a constant source of infection to other females.
Lepto prevention starts by limiting wildlife and rodent access. Limit the brush and tall grass around the kennel and put a fence around the perimeter to discourage the wildlife carriers. Contaminated standing water is the main source of spread, so kennel designs need to be sloped to limit the amount of standing water. Raised decks and flooring, such as Kennel Deck™
, are also helpful for keeping dogs off of the wet ground. Lepto thrives in wet, moist environments, but has a short life in dry, arid locations, so environment will help you determine the best approach for preventing Lepto in your kennel. Vaccination
against Lepto is also an important tool for preventing puppy loss. All first time moms should be vaccinated before breeding as maiden females have no immunity and are at the highest risk of puppy loss.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical
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