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Leptospirosis: The Disease vs the Vaccination

November 1, 2013

Leptospirosis can cause kidney or liver damage in pets.  Plus, it’s a zoonotic disease, meaning that humans can also be infected.

Along with Rabies, Distemper and Parvo vaccines, the “lepto” vaccine used to be commonly included in a dog’s group of annual vaccinations, even though it is not one of the core vaccines recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association, according to Dr. Cynthia Juday, a Sarasota veterinarian.  Dr. Juday is opposed to the use of the lepto vaccine.

“Almost all of the vaccine reactions I saw were when lepto was part of the combo.  Also, there are several forms of the lepto agent, and some of the vaccines don’t include the particular lepto agents a dog would be likely to encounter.”

The leptospirosis vaccine can produce some bad side effects.  Back in 1993, I brought my Blue Great Dane puppy home.  Coby was 9 weeks old and ready for more puppy shots.  Our mobile veterinarian came to our house to administer Coby’s vaccinations.

Job completed, Dr. Childs departed.  Within 10 minutes, Coby’s breathing became labored and his gums turned blue.  A phone call quickly brought our vet back to our home and within minutes, she reversed our puppy’s anaphylactic shock and Coby was back to normal.  Dr. Childs immediately suspected that the lepto vaccine in the combination shot she gave him was the culprit and decided never again to use it on our dogs.  As she said, “I would rather treat the disease that deal with the side effects of the vaccine.”

Proponents for administering the lepto vaccine say that a dog can contract the disease by walking through puddles of standing water and licking its paws and from drinking contaminated water.  I contend that responsible pet owners won’t allow their pets to drink such water.

Dr. Juday says, “Household dogs don’t have a real risk of being exposed to lepto.  It would be more so with rural dogs that are exposed to livestock.  I just wouldn’t do it!”

Veterinarians obviously vary in their opinions, and you have to decide what is best for your own pet.  Since 1993, none of my dogs have been given the leptospirosis vaccine, and they have not suffered any ill effects from my decision.

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