Zoonotics: Beware Leptospirosis & Vaccine

December 10, 2011

In 1994, I brought home a blue Great Dane puppy from an Ohio breeder (shown here at 9 months). Even though I had followed his mama’s pregnancy from its artificial insemination beginning and knew the litter had received excellent veterinary care, I immediately called my own veterinarian to come out and give my new baby a look and his next set of vaccinations. My puppy was going to be a show dog and I wanted to be sure he received the best care possible and all the vaccinations needed.

Coby received his shots and the exam, and the vet departed in her mobile clinic. Within ten minutes, the puppy’s breathing became labored and his gums had turned from a healthy pink to blue. A quick call to the vet brought her right back, and she worked on Coby on the kitchen table, injecting him with an antihistamine before rushing him outside to her clinic truck. After working on him for a few minutes, she brought my boy back to life.

After some research my vet decided that Coby must have been allergic to the leptospirosis part of the cocktail combination of vaccines she had given him earlier.

Leptospirosis is an infection affecting both animals and humans, a  zoonotic disease. It is caused by bacteria from contaminated water sources. Drinking or bathing in such water can lead to the infection (“Healthy Pet,” 2008). It is rare for cats to become infected but quite common in dogs.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, flu-like symptoms and vomiting, but laboratory tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment with antibiotics, if started early in dogs, minimizes the risk of infection in their people. Treatment usually lasts 2-3 weeks.

Some experts suggest vaccinating against leptospirosis, although I would argue against that one. My veterinarian told me she had never before experienced a reaction such as Coby’s in any animal she had treated, but she would stop using the drug that included the Lepto vaccine. “I would rather treat the disease than risk an animal dying from a reaction to the vaccine,” she said.

The best idea is to try and prevent your dog from being exposed to leptospirosis. Keep your dog away from standing water that could carry bacteria, and make sure your own yard is free of dog feces.



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