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Vaccinating your dog for Leptospirosis

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a re-emerging disease worldwide. It has re-emerged in North America with such force that professionals at the Centers for Disease Control say they now consider the disease a notable source of mortality. It is a bacterial disease of humans and animals. In humans and dogs alike, it causes a wide range of symptoms from very mild flu like symptoms to liver and/or kidney failure.

How is it spread?

The primary method of transmission is via water contaminated with urine, although urine-contaminated soil, bedding or foods are also routes of exposure in addition to blood or saliva. Organisms can penetrate mucus membranes, wet or macerated skin or intact skin. Leptospirosis can be spread by dogs, rats, raccoons, possums, several other common mammals, and humans.

What considerations are used to determine which dogs should be vaccinated?

Most authorities agree on the following indicators for vaccinating for leptospirosis:

Animals in geographical areas with defined wet seasons – our part of Oregon fits this description.

Animals in geographic areas where there is a known prevalence or outbreak of the disease. According to our own state veterinarian, 96 dogs tested positive for the disease in 2008. 20% of those were in Multnomah Co., 14% in Washington Co. and 10% in Clackamas Co. Keep in mind that these were only the reported cases.

Animals who frequent any type of communal area shared by multiple dogs such as neighborhood dog parks, grooming salons or boarding facilities. Dogs that do not go to these or similar places are still at risk: you can limit the area in which your dog walks, but you can’t prevent other animals from walking in that area, or even in your own yard.

Is there risk in vaccinating?

There is risk involved with every vaccine. The reaction rate for the new vaccine is less than 3%, with the majority of those reactions being soreness at the injection site post-vaccination. The newest vaccines have significantly increased the efficacy of the vaccine, while simultaneously reducing the incidence of reactions as well. Due to the factors above, most authorities on the topic agree that for our area, the risk of the disease is greater than the risk of vaccinating.

Please let a staff member know if you have any further concerns, and one of our medical team will be happy to meet with you.

Thank you for trusting us to always give the best care to your furry friends.