Why vaccinate now?
Canine Leptospirosis appears to have become endemic in Southern Maryland.  Rodents, raccoons, cattle, buffalo, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs are common reservoirs of Leptospirosis.  The incidence of Leptospirosis has increased in the past 10 years in the United States. Dogs in recently developed suburbs seem to be most affected, although all dog breeds may be at risk for the disease.
 
What is it?
Infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria.  There are 8 known subtypes of this bacterium. 
 
Who is susceptible to it?
Dogs, cats, humans, and other animals.
 
How does it spread?
The bacterium is usually shed in the urine of infected animals or carriers and enters through mucous membranes (licking) or abraded skin.
 
Time line from exposure to signs?
Clinical signs can start as early as 4 to 10 days post exposure.
 
What are the symptoms?
The bacterium attacks the kidneys leading to partial or complete kidney failure, which may not be reversible.  The bacteria can also attack the liver leading to a severe and acute hepatitis (liver inflammation).  Symptoms include: lethargy, vomiting, and dehydration, fever, decreased appetite, increased drinking, decreased urine production or no urine production, icterus (yellowing of mucous membranes), and petechia (small dark red dots on the skin that indicate internal bleeding).
 
Is there a test for it?
Yes, two blood samples are collected (the first collected while the animal is sick and the second collected 3 weeks later) to be sent out to the laboratory.
 
How is it treated?
Treatment largely consists of supportive care and these patients are hospitalized.  In this case fluid therapy (IV) to maintain hydration and proper nutritional support are required.  Anti-vomiting injectable medications, and antibiotics (Penicillin) are also used. 
 
Cleaning the environment?
Avoid contact with wildlife urine and stagnant water that can be infected with the bacteria.
 
Is there a vaccine?
Yes.  The vaccine (Bacterin – Killed or weak bacteria) can be given alone or as the “L” in the DHLPP vaccine.  The vaccine is given by injection and requires two doses 4 weeks apart with yearly boosters.  Puppies should receive a minimum of two doses after 12 weeks of age.  The vaccine does not prevent infection; rather it reduces the severity and the duration of the disease.
 
Risk for humans?
Humans can become severely ill if infected with this bacterium.  Avoid direct contact with pet’s urine and use proper hygiene.
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