Leptospirosis: What is it?
We have written about Leptospirosis in the past, and promised to update you when new information became available. Leptospirosis is a very serious illness that can cause severe liver and kidney disease, and even death, in dogs. The bacteria that causes the disease is spread in the urine of infected raccoons and skunks. Leptospirosis survives and thrives in stagnant water, such as that in gutters and eavestroughs. With Toronto’s large raccoon population, Leptospirosis is significant risk factor for city dogs. We are now treating several cases per year, and the pets in question are extremely ill.
What can you do about your dog and Leptospirosis?
- Keep your dog from coming in contact with Racoon urine. Spots where racoons have defecated, are spots where they may also have urinated. Prevent your dog from coming near these sites.
- Keep your dog away from stagnant water, including water in gutter, puddles, and marshy areas. If racoons have been there, they may have left Leptospirosis behind.
There is an updated vaccine (or technically a bacterin as it is a bacteria not a virus) available to protect against Leptospirosis, and we have now upgraded the Leptospirosis vaccine to our “Strongly Recommended” classification.
Our general policy at Blue Cross Animal Hospital is to only recommend vaccines which we know will work, for diseases from which the pet in question is at high risk. In the past we haven’t recommended the Leptospirosis vaccine to all dogs for two reasons:
First, we weren’t certain that the vaccine was protecting against the strains of Leptospirosis that we see in Toronto. There is no one Leptospirosis bacteria. There are multiple “serovars” or types of Leptospirosis. Different regions of the world have different serovars. Both the past and current vaccines available protect against four of the most common disease-causing serovars for dogs, but we couldn’t be certain that those strains were the ones prevalent in Toronto.
Secondly, the older vaccines were prone to causing allergic vaccine reactions, particularly in small dogs.
In short, we weren’t sure if the available vaccine was protective, and as it might cause illness in your dog, we weren’t recommending vaccination.
More research has been done, and we now know that Toronto racoons are indeed testing positive for the serovars in the vaccine.
Secondly, as of this year, we have an updated vaccine. Current production technologies have rendered a purer vaccine which is much less likely to cause a reaction.
With much greater confidence that we have an effective, safe vaccine for a disease for which we continue to see numbers of very sick dogs, we are now strongly recommending Leptospirosis vaccination to all our canine clients.