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 Lepto infections come from contact with water that is contaminated with infected urine. 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 therisk 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 right away unless you are looking for solutions to puppy death – one or two puppies that are stillborn or that die 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.

Diagnosis of Lepto is usually based on clinical signs. Culturing Lepto bacteria is difficult and often unsuccessful, though new testing has improved results. Leptospirosis targets the kidney, liver and blood vessels, so acute infections can cause kidney failure, vomiting, dehydration, bleeding and jaundice.

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 the disease, but these infections are difficult to identify. This makes treatment important for preventing further contamination, even if it looks like the animal has recovered.

Prevention against Lepto is similar to prevention of fleas and ticks. Limit the brush and tall grass around the kennel and put a fence around the perimeter to discourage wildlife. 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 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 keep this in mind as you determine the best approach for preventing Lepto in your kennel. Vaccination against Lepto is also an important tool for preventing puppy loss in maiden females.

Dr. B
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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 attention.

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