Is Your Dog Vaccinated For Leptospirosis?


The Clifton Times spoke with a local veterinarian, who warned that there is currently an increase in cases of leptospirosis in our area, and recommended that dogs be vaccinated against it.

What is Leptospirosis? Leptospirosis is a communicable, zoonotic (spread from animals to people) disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria is spread through the urine of infected animals (often rats and mice) and can contaminate soil or water in the environment and survive there for weeks to months. Dogs are most commonly affected and can become infected when exposed directly to the urine of an infected animal, or through contaminated water or soil. The bacteria enter through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) or through open wounds (a scratch or cut). Drinking contaminated water is another way a pet can become infected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species.

Symptoms to Look For: The symptoms of leptospirosis vary. Some pets may not have any clinical signs of infection (but may still be shedding the virus), while others may have mild signs that quickly resolve. In some cases, severe disease resulting in death may occur. Young pets tend to be more seriously affected than older pets. If you notice jaundice, fever, dehydration, vomiting or diarrhea, loss of appetite, decreased energy, or weakness, take your pet to your veterinarian for an exam and treatment. Even dogs that recover may still be at risk for chronic kidney failure.

The Vaccine: Dogs can be vaccinated against leptospirosis. The vaccine consists of an initial dose followed by a booster three to four weeks later and then is administered annually. As there are many strains of leptospirosis, vaccination does not provide 100% protection, but it does reduce your dog’s risk of infection by the most common strains. Contact your veterinarian to learn more about the vaccination. Lower-cost vaccines are available through Vetco clinics at Petco, including the one on Route 3 in Clifton. Appointments can be made here.

Other Precautions: Keep dogs away from bodies of water that could contain rat urine, as well as from rats and other rodents that can spread the disease. Vets also recommend making sure your dog avoids communal water bowls and instead uses a travel bowl or bottle to provide fresh, uncontaminated water to drink.

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