Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by a number of wild animals including rodents, raccoons, squirrels and skunks. It is transmitted in the urine of animals. Dogs can become infected either by ingesting the bacteria or through the skin. Leptospirosis has a variety of clinical presentations. The organs affected are the liver and kidneys. It can also cause low platelets. Infection is treatable if caught early. Unfortunately in some cases it can be fatal.
There is a vaccine available for Leptospirosis. For many years pet owners and veterinarians were resistant to vaccinate for Leptospirosis due to what appeared to be a higher incidence of vaccine reactions compared to other vaccines. Reactions included pain at injection site, lethargy, vomiting, facial swelling and very rarely anaphylactic shock. Fortunately the vaccine has been reformulated and the new version does not have any more reactions than other vaccines.
We do not recommend vaccinating all dogs for Leptospirosis. The decision to vaccinate a dog for Leptospirosis is based on risk assessment. The following are risk factors for Leptospirosis: dogs that go to dog parks, dogs that have exposure to standing or stagnant water, dogs that spend time in an environment frequented by carriers of the bacteria (skunks, squirrels, rodents, raccoons, etc…). Leptospirosis vaccination is required for all dogs that go to dog parks in Cook County.
Another concern about Leptospirosis is that it is zoonotic, or transmissible to people. Infected dogs can shed the bacteria in their urine. For more information on Leptosprirosis in dogs check out: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1745 . For information on Leptospirosis infection in people check out: http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/index.html
If you would like your dog vaccinated for Leptospirosis or would like to discuss it further please contact your veterinarian.