Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leptospirosis: What is it?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection. However, it's not quite THAT simple. There are a number of different subtypes or "serovars."   The vaccines we use get some, but not all that are out there. This is a zoonotic disease, meaning we can acquire it from animals, notably our dogs. Humans can and do acquire this infection apart from dogs too however.

It is, despite not getting the "media hype", the most common zoonotic disease in the world. It is most often carried by rodents and disseminated through their urine into water sources or puddles of water. Humans and other animals contract it via contact with these - licking paws, consuming the water or just splashing and contact with wounds or mucous membranes. 

The "risk" groups as listed by the CDC are as follows:

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals, such as:
  • farmers
  • mine workers
  • sewer workers
  • slaughterhouse workers
  • veterinarians and animal caretakers
  • fish workers
  • dairy farmers
  • military personnel
The disease has also been associated with swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. As such, it is a recreational hazard for campers or those who participate in outdoor sports. The risk is likely greater for those who participate in these activities in tropical or temperate climates.
In addition, incidence of Leptospirosis infection among urban children appears to be increasing.
Also to note:

It is estimated that 100-200 Leptospirosis cases are identified annually in the United States. About 50% of cases occur in Hawaii.
The largest recorded U.S. outbreak occurred in 1998, when 775 people were exposed to the disease. Of these, 110 became infected.
Although incidence in the United States is relatively low, leptospirosis is considered to be the most widespread zoonotic disease in the world.
Significant increases in incidence have been reported from Peru and Ecuador following heavy rainfall and flooding in the spring of 1998. Thailand has also reported a rapid increase in incidence between 1995 and 2000.

The following article discusses leptospirosis in our dog populationLepto in dogs
Why do I bring this disease up? Is it something I see often?
Well, no. It is a core part of my vaccination protocols for most dogs. Most. It is definitely out there though. 
This IS something I have seen. It can be fatal. I actually believe it's underdiagnosed. It can cause a wide variety of signs which can be present in OTHER disease processes. It's not that "simple" to diagnose and the antibiotics we often use to treat those "other" things often get this too. 
The biggest issue is vaccine reactions. This vaccine or vaccine component (it can be found combined with other vaccines) causes the most vaccine reactions of all the ones we have and give to our dogs. 
However, it is still important for all dogs UNLESS they have a vaccine reaction that is so severe, to get this vaccine. They can be pre treated with diphenhydramine. 
I can tell you I vaccinate MY own dogs, including my smaller 17lb dog. 
There are some breeds more prone to vaccine reaction and in small breeds, I do recommend splitting vaccines up and not giving 3 or 4 at once. 
Combination vaccines have been found to be less likely to cause reactions than single vaccines. This is why we choose combination vaccines where we can. 
Talk to your veterinarian about this. Not the breeder. Not the groomer. Not someone who also owns a "x" dog. 

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