Everyone probably has their own opinions of dog immunizations and appropriate vaccination schedules, including myself. We can save that discussion for a later date though. If I had to choose one of the five illnesses listed above to vaccinate my adult dog for, it would be against Leptospirosis. When I started to see more cases of the disease rise during my years working as a vet tech, I began to realize that Leptospirosis is something not to be messed with.
What Is Leptospirosis Anyways?
|Original image URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leptospira_scanning_micrograph.jpg|
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection of spirochetes. There are many different strains that can affect dogs. Infected wild animals like mice, rats, deer, raccoons, etc. spread the bacteria through their urine. Dogs can then catch the infection by consuming contaminated water, through mucous membranes, exposure of the bacteria to open wounds or abrasions, or ingesting a contaminated animal.
Once in the bloodstream, Leptospirosis makes it's way through the body and reproduces in the dog's liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Dogs may be able to fight off the bacteria on their own, although some bacteria may stay behind in the kidneys. Dogs can shed the bacteria for many months after an infection has initially been cleared.
How Leptospirosis affects a dog can vary depending on several factors. These factors include age, breed, sex, and immunity. The symptoms are different from case to case but can include fever, muscle pain, decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination, or jaundice.
How Is Leptospirosis Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Leptospirosis, veterinarians may first perform a series of standard tests. These tests might include bloodwork and x-rays. If bloodwork shows that the dog is in liver and/or kidney failure, then they may suspect Leptospirosis. The bacterial infection is usually not diagnosed on the first veterinary visit.
When Leptospirosis is a possible factor, the vet may want to run more tests to be sure. There is a titer test that can be sent out to labs. It tests for several different serovars of the bacteria. The only problem with this test is that it can take several days to get a result.
A PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) is a good alternative. Results can be achieved within hours and are likely to be more reliable.
Treatment of Leptospirosis In Dogs
Treatment depends on the dog and how ill they have become. Dogs who are very sick with the infection will need intensive supportive care. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics are typically indicated. I have helped nurse several dogs with Leptospirosis. Nursing care is crucial, so your dog may even need to stay a few nights at your veterinary clinic or emergency animal hospital.
How To Prevent Leptospirosis
So that brings us back to the topic of vaccinating against this bacterial infection. I am not big on vaccinating my dog all the time, but this is one vaccine I would recommend to dog owners who live in high risk areas. Talk to your veterinarian about the prevalence of this bacteria in the region where you live. The DHLPP vaccination is usually given every 1 to 3 years to dogs and includes immunity against Leptospirosis. Also, there is an individual vaccine against Leptospirosis if you don't need the other four.