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Leptospirosis (again! - sorry!)

3020 Views 14 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Mr Chi
I found some good threads on this but I have a bit of a dilema. Winston's parents were vaccinated and this included the lepto shot. Winston is having his first shots tommorow and the vet was talking through the vaccinations he gives. This was last week when we were talking. I recently found the "dangers of leto shot" thread and phoned the surgery. He's happy to talk it over with me, he said bring along the thread so he can have a read. It was a bit too sciency for me so I was wondering how many people pass up what seems to be a very neccessary vaccination??!! I really dont know what to do about it! From what I can gather the problem stems from a reaction to the vaccine? If his parents were done I'm assuming the chances of complications are low. The vet lives above the surgery and said he would be happy to be on call any time if I was worried after the shots, but he was very confident that the course they use is very good. I've been with them with my other pets, but as this is a whole new ball park I find myself wavering. Please, any comments?
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Wow! Great article.

Cliff Notes by Nate for anyone who is ADD like me and can't get through the whole thing:

Leptospirosis is a family of bacteria that can infect pretty much all types of animals and humans by having an open wound contact an infected animal's urine, and less likely, by bite wounds and eating material from an infected animal . Vaccinated animals can also be carriers for short periods and shed the bacteria in their urine.

In the US, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have had outbreaks, but other states like California have also seen a few cases.

4-12 days following infection usually the dog has moderate fever, depression, vomiting, loss of appetite, and general pain.

Within 2 days body temperature may drop suddenly and signs of kidney failure begin including: urine color change, frequent urination, dehydration, frequent drinking.

In severe cases, difficulty breathing, muscular tremors, bloody vomit and feces are observed as the the liver and GI tract are affected. The severity of the symptoms does depend on which strain of Leptospirosis bacteria the animal was infected with, but often they are infected with multiple strains. Fun huh?

How do they test for lepto?
Initial blood tests will show signs of kidney and liver failure. If they suspect lepto, they will test the urine for the bacteria, test the blood serum or take a liver biopsy. Usually they will do more than one test or repeat tests if possible in case they recieve a false positive or false negative.

How do they treat lepto? Antibiotics to treat the infection, fluids to treat the kidney disease, and sometimes transfusions to compensate for liver failure. This works very well, and it is important the animal is in isolation. Only about 10% or less of the dogs that contract lepto die, and usually they are very young or very old and do not recieve prompt medical attention.

Should you vaccinate for lepto? The controversey has to do with 4 things:
1. Many dogs are allergic to the carrier in the lepto vaccine, it is the most common vaccine to cause of sudden life threatening allergic reaction.
2. It's only protecting against SOME bacteria. At most, the vaccine only protects against 4 strains (serovars) of Lepto bacteria. Usually animals are infected with multiple serovars, and although these 4 are the most common, it's far from ideal.
3. The vaccine gives a false sense of security to owners. Dogs who are vaccinated are very likely to still be infected, although the severity is reduced, during this time they shed the bacteria in their urine, making any animals and humans around them susceptible.
4. Duration sucks! The vaccine only lasts 6-8 months. This is twice a year, my dog could have an anaphylactic reaction.

Vets in high-risk areas have probably seen too many cases of lepto to not recommend the vaccine. Vets in low-risk areas have seen too few cases and heard of too many vaccine reactions to even give it a thought. In all situations their job is to weigh the pros and cons and do what is best for the animal.

For me personally, with Ritz going to Michigan, I will begin heartworm meds, but will not vaccinate for Lepto. He will be indoors most of the time and I will check his paws for open wounds before walking him. I've seen too many reports of allergic reaction to the vaccination to subject him to it. The math doesn't make sense to me: if 20-30% of dogs have allergic reactions (many of these fatal) to the vaccine, and less than 10% die from the infection itself, then Ritz has a better chance of living without the vaccine. I can decrease his risk of infection better by making sure his environment is clean, he doesn't walk with open sores, and he doesn't swim.

Hope that helps!
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