Have you heard of the recent outbreak on Leptospirosis in the Bergen Country area?
We sure have, with clients flocking in to vaccinate their pets. What exactly is Leptospirosis you may ask?
Dogs contract the bacterial infection through the urine of other animals. The bacteria can survive in water or soil for weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wild animals can spread the disease and then dogs can pick it up through an open cut or when drinking from an infected water source. Rats can also be common carriers of the disease, so lepto can be found in large urban areas where rodents are a problem. They might transmit the disease after drinking in a puddle or leaving droppings on streets or in kennels where dogs are housed.
Leptospires spread throughout the entire body, reproducing in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Soon after initial infection, fever and bacterial infection of the blood develop, but these symptoms soon resolve with the reactive increase of antibodies, which clear the spirochetes from most of the system.
The extent to which this bacteria affects the organs will depend on your dog’s immune system and its ability to eradicate the infection fully. Even then, Leptospira spirochetes can remain in the kidneys, reproducing there and infecting the urine. Infection of the liver or kidneys can be fatal for animals if the infection progresses, causing severe damage to these organs. Younger animals with less developed immune systems are at the highest risk for severe complications. Pet owners should immediately take their animals to the veterinarian if their pets begin showing signs of tiredness, have red eyes or the chills and are jaundice. Lab tests are necessary to determine a positive case of leptospirosis infection. If untreated, the infection could severely damage a pet’s organs and could be fatal.
The Leptospira spirochete bacteria is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Children are most at risk of acquiring the bacteria from an infected pet.
There is a leptospirosis vaccination that is targeted toward several strains of the bacteria that can cause the disease. It’s kind of like the flu vaccine, where it protects against some of the more common strains that are circulating, but doesn’t guarantee protection against the illness. Talk to your veterinarian to discuss whether your dog is a good candidate for the vaccine. Your animal’s location and lifestyle are the two factors to consider. If you have a pet that is almost always indoors, walks on sidewalks, and isn’t playing in woods or in rivers or streams, he may not need the vaccine. However, if your dog is an outdoorsy type or you live somewhere where rats are an issue, it may be worth getting the vaccine.