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Veterinary Clinic

What on Earth is Leptospirosis?

A Dalmation drinking water that may be contaminated*

As conscientious pet owners, we eagerly seek to make certain that our pets are vaccinated against Rabies. At times many people have wondered, "Why the hysteria?" or "Is this really necessary?"

The main reason is that Rabies is an infectious disease that can spread from mammals to people by bite wounds. To help keep this virus from showing its ugly head, we as a community are making an astounding effort to help eradicate the disease by vaccinating our cats and dogs. But, what about some of the other microscopic "bugs" that aren't as well known but are very real...

and very present.

Though many diseases are species specific, there are several that pets can actually transmit to people (zoonotic diseases). There is one in particular that deserves our attention, Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial organism that is transmitted in the urine (and other fluids) of mammals such as mice, opossums, squirrels, deer, foxes, etc. These animals can be "carriers" without signs or symptoms of the disease and they can shed the bacteria throughout their lives into water and soil....that's a lot of contamination!

Once a dog is infected through open sores on their paw or from drinking contaminated water, she can also become a "carrier" secreting the bacteria; but if she contracts a more virulent (or powerful) serovar (similar to bacterial strain), she can suffer severe, life threatening disease. The kidneys and/or the liver are the organs most commonly affected, and usually the pooch must be hospitalized...many times for days, and sometimes does not survive.

If that news wasn't bad enough, this wont sit well with you. People can contract the disease from handling their pet's urine. Most people diagnosed with Leptospirosis suffer such profound kidney disease that they often require hemodialysis (which is when a person's kidney function of detoxifying the body is so poor that aperson has to have their blood cells washed). If not diagnosed and treated properly, it can be fatal.

Now for a little good news. Leptospirosis is treatable with specific antibiotics if given for an appropriate length if time. Even better news.....we have a vaccine for Leptospirosis to help prevent it in the first place... and it is very effective!

"Even better news... we have a vaccine for Leptospirosis to help prevent it in the first place..."

With 2 sets initially, and 1 set yearly, we can achieve fantastic protection for your dogs! We are recommending it for all dogs because most commonly it's being isolated (found) in even the smallest, least active of dogs who spend their life indoors....a mystery, yes I know.

There is some speculation that cats may contract leptospirosis as well, however, more evidence suggests that it isn't very common, possibly because of the pH of their urinary tract. So they are off the hook until further notice.

Call us if you have any questions about the vaccine or about the disease itself, and to make plans to get your pets protected if they are not already. Safeguard yourself by washing your hands well after handling your little loved ones. Think twice about going shoeless, even though we love the cool dirt beneath our feet. Never drink water that hasn't been treated. Overall, just be safe. It's a jungle out there!

-LaShonn McNair, DVM

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