Leptospirosis-Does my dog need this?
Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR
Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital
Three years ago, our doctors completed their discussions and research on adding the Leptospirosis vaccine to our vaccine recommendations. It is not what we consider a "core" vaccine, one given to all dogs, but it is one that we discuss with each owner. Looking at a dog's lifestyle and potential risk factors for that dog, allows the doctors to discern whether a patient needs this particular vaccine added. By customizing the vaccine schedule, we are able to minimize the number of vaccines necessary while still keeping a pet protected.
So what criteria do our veterinarians use to determine whether your dog is a candidate for the vaccine? Typically, dogs become infected with leptospirosis by exposure to contaminated water that is ingested or comes in contact with mucous membranes. In Savannah, we mainly worry about stagnant water. These hazards seem to be everywhere in our coastal area, especially during our rainy season in the spring. (Also a concern for the breeding of mosquitoes). On a side note, leptospirosis is rarely seen in cats. Do you have a Lab that swims anywhere and everywhere he gets a chance? This scenario would be a "no-brainer" for our veterinarians.
Today I read an article in one of our veterinary journals reaffirming the importance of recognizing this disease and emphasizing that prevention is preferable even when it necessitates giving another immunization. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, one that can be transmitted to humans, but it can also cause serious kidney and liver disease to your dog and you. Some dogs may not even show clinical signs of the disease but shed organisms infecting your family, while others will become severely ill and ultimately die of the disease. My own dog has chronic kidney disease and one of the first things we did on diagnosis was some blood work to rule out leptospirosis. In the last two years, she has been given the vaccine so there is one less exposure for me to worry about.
Be sure to discuss your pet's lifestyle with your veterinarian when you go in for your pet's annual visit. Part of the fees associated with vaccines is the years of study and training your veterinarian goes through to be able to understand the science behind the individualized vaccine plan for your pet. Prevention truly is the best medicine!