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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Leptospirosis Is Sneaking It's Way Into Your Life

There is an infectious disease "out there," and it is trying to find you. It's called Leptospirosis, but we call it Lepto for short. It is caused by a bacterial organism of the same name. It can affect most wildlife species, domestic livestock, dogs, and people. It is a pretty horrible infection to acquire, as it usually infects the kidneys, and sometimes the liver.

This bacterial organism loves water, and is passed in the urine of infected mice, rats, deer, cows, raccoons, dogs, people, etc... Once the organism gets into a wet environment, it will thrive. As water moves, so will the bacteria. Your dog can become infected simply by sniffing or licking the moist grass after a hard rain. We used to think of this as a "rural" disease, but recent statistics show that urban dogs are at higher risk than we thought - probably due to transmission by rats and mice.

The disease is not easy to diagnose because the symptoms are vague, and mimic a number of other conditions. This is especially bad because the longer it takes the veterinarian to diagnose your dog, the longer your family will be unsuspectingly at-risk for acquiring the infection from the dog. There is a veterinarian near my practice who lost a kidney to Lepto.

The best way to protect your dog from Lepto is via vaccine. The vaccine is not 100% protective, but greatly reduces the risk for infection. The new Lepto vaccines (at least the ones we use) are much safer than the old vaccines from 10 years or more ago. We still occasionally see some soreness or lethargy in smaller vaccinated dogs, but it is usually self-limiting. It definitely beats getting Lepto! We do not feel that vaccination is necessary for dogs leading extremely sheltered lives (ie never go outside, potty indoors on papers, do not go for walks outdoors, etc...)

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