Vet Minute: Litter Loss Causes: Strep Zoo, Lepto & BrucellosisLast updated: May 2, 2022
In this Vet Minute, Revival's Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, explains how diseases can endanger unborn puppies, and ways to protect them.
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Shelley: When a pregnant dog loses a litter, you want to know why. In this Vet Minute, Dr. Marty Greer, Revival's Director of Veterinary Services, is talking about three possible causes of litter loss: strep zoo, leptospirosis, and brucellosis. Now, Dr. Greer, let's first talk about strep zoo.
Strep Zoo and Antibiotics
Dr. Greer: Sure. strep zoo is a strep infection. That's a one-celled bacteria that we don't commonly see. But every now and then it'll crop up in a breeding situation. We can culture the dogs, both the males and the females, to try and determine if strep zoo is the organism causing a problem. And it does respond pretty well to the use of antibiotics.
So routinely we don't put dogs on antibiotics for breeding, but in circumstances where we've either proven or have a strong suspicion that strep zoo is an organism that's causing our problems of either infertility, apparent infertility or pregnancy loss, then it's appropriate to start a dog on amoxicillin or one of the drugs in the same drug class. Those are prescription items.
Leptospirosis-Prevention and Protection
Shelley: OK, so now let's talk about lepto in pregnant dogs. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Dr. Greer: Sure. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection, a spirochete, which is a spiral-shaped bacteria. It spread through standing water. It's really important that we control standing water on our properties and that we control the wildlife like raccoons that might enter the property. So, fencing that area off, keeping the animals free from leptospirosis is important. But lepto is unique in that, unlike strep zoo, which we can't vaccinate against, we can vaccinate against four strains of lepto.
So very important that you keep dogs in your breeding kennel, males and females up to date on leptospirosis, that you do those annual vaccinations and that you protect them. Now, late term abortion can happen as a result of leptospirosis. So, if that happens in your kennel, that a dog has premature puppies, you want to have those tested at a diagnostic lab.
And then the tests for the dogs that may be infected with it, which normally lepto causes liver and kidney problems, but in pregnancy causes the loss of litter. There's a urine test that we look for the bacteria prior to the start of antibiotics or a blood test looking for the titer. So, there's two different tests that we can do for leptospirosis.
It can be managed with antibiotics. But again, routine use of antibiotics is not appropriate in a breeding kennel. It's only used if we have a strong suspicion or proof that we have leptospirosis and then we treat appropriately.
Brucellosis Best Practices
Shelley: OK. Now, thirdly, I want to talk about brucellosis because I know that's another one that can cause problems for pregnant dogs. So, let's talk about that.
Dr. Greer: Right. Brucellosis can make apparent loss of fertility. Either the male can lose his fertility or the female can either have infertility or again, fetal loss, late stage abortion or resorption prior to that. So, it can look like you have a fertility issue, but in reality, you really have canine brucellosis. Brucellosis is contagious to people so again, we have to be really careful with that.
There is no vaccine for brucellosis in the dog. Antibiotics don't effectively clear that infection. So, it's very important that before dogs come into a boarding kennel, breeding kennel, any place that you're going to have groups of dogs that are in a breeding situation, that they are tested for brucellosis. So before bringing new dogs into a breeding colony, they should be tested and quarantined until those test results are back.
Right now, brucellosis testing is becoming more difficult to get a fast turnaround on. So, again, very important that you're screening for that and not introducing dogs into the kennel. That is a disease that the state has the authority to come in and eliminate your breeding dogs. So be very, very aware that brucellosis is a serious disorder and one we have to keep out of our breeding kennels.
Shelley: Now, if a test is positive, is there anything you can do for any of these, either strep zoo, lepto or brucellosis?
Dr. Greer: Sure. So, both lepto and strep zoo can be treated. Brucellosis, generally, the recommendation is to depopulate the breeding kennel. Very serious. So be very, very careful with that disease. The others can be managed. This one is generally one of depopulation. Not good for anybody's breeding kennel.
Shelley: OK, thank you, doctor.
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 35+ years' experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She's served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services since 2019.
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