Please see our updated recommendations on Leptospirosis here: Leptospirosis Vaccine Update 2014
Leptospirosis is a very serious disease that can cause severe liver and kidney disease in dogs. In the worst cases it is fatal. The bacteria that causes the disease is spread in the urine of infected raccoons and skunks. It likes to live in stagnant water. With Toronto’s large raccoon population, Leptosprosis is definitely a risk factor for city dogs. We have treated several confirmed cases already this year.
What can you do about your dog and Leptospirosis?
- Prevent your dog from coming in contact with Racoon urine. Keep them away from spots where racoons have defecated, as these are spots where they may also have urinated.
- Keep your dog away from stagnant water, including water in gutter, puddles, and marshy areas.
There is a vaccine (or technically a bacterin as it is a bacteria not a virus) available to protect against Leptospirosis.
With the risk of Leptospirosis being so high, you may wonder why Blue Cross Animal Hospital doesn’t give every canine patient the Leptospirosis vaccine when they come for their annual visit. The short answer is that our general policy is to only recommend vaccines which we know will work, for diseases from which the pet in question is at high risk.
The long answer is more complicated. There is no one Leptospirosis bacteria. There are multiple “serovars” or types of Leptospirosis. Different regions of the world have different serovars. The vaccine available protects against four of the most common disease-causing serovars for dogs. The problem is that the serovar causing disease in Toronto is not necessarily one of the serovars targeted by the vaccine. It is unlikely that there is any cross protection between serovars, so giving a dog the current Leptospira vaccine may be protective–or it may not. Future research may eliminate this doubt and we will update you.
As well as not knowing if we are actually protecting dogs, there is an increased risk of allergic reation with the Leptospirosis innoculation especially in small dogs.
For all the above reasons, we like to have the discussion with each dog owner to make them aware of Leptospirosis and decide if, for their particular dog, even a chance of protection is better than none at all.