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The staff at the Merrick Veterinary Group now recommends vaccination of all at risk dogs against leptospirosis due the the increased incidence of this disease in our immediate practice area.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is disease caused by bacteria called leptospires. lnfection with this bacteria  can develop into a severe, life-threatening illness with infections affecting the kidneys, liver, brain, lungs, and heart.

How is Leptospirosis transmitted?

Leptospires are spread through the urine of infected animals such as raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, rats or other rodents. On occasion, dogs also may pass the disease to each other. The bacteria can be found in the environment in contaminated water or soil, and can survive there for weeks to months. Leptospires can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or a scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection.

The time between exposure to the bacteria and the development of disease is usually 5 to 14 days, but can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days or more. 

What are the signs of Leptospirosis?

The clinical signs of leptospirosis are varied and non-specific. Sometimes pets do not have any signs at all. Common clinical signs reported in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, increased thirst, increased urination, severe weakness and depression, stiffness, and muscle pain. Some dogs may also exhibit icterus, or a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Can people contract Leptospirosis?

Yes. Normal daily activities with your pet will not put you at high risk for leptospirosis infection. Contact that is considered high risk includes direct or indirect contact with infected urine or blood from your pet. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection in people. If you think you have been in direct contact with leptospire bacteria please consult your physician immediately.

What is the treatment for Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis can be treated with penicillin type antibiotics. If an infected animal is treated early, it may recover more rapidly and organ damage may be less severe. Most affected animals will need intravenous hydration therapy and symptomatic treatment for the other signs they are exhibiting - vomiting, diarrhea, etc. Severely affected animals may need other treatments such as dialysis, and permanent organ damage may occur. Leptospirosis is often fatal even when treated early and aggressively.

How can Leptospirosis be prevented?
To prevent leptospirosis keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control.  Get your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis. Please remember that no vaccine provides 100% protection. This is especially true for leptospirosis because there are many serovars (strains) of leptospire bacteria. Unfortunately vaccination does not provide immunity against all strains of lepto. Vaccination will protect your pet against the most common strains of leptospire bacteria and decrease the chances of infection. Do not allow your pet to drink standing water, especially in areas where raccoons are known to congregate.

How often do dogs get vaccinated for leptospirosis?

Your dog will get it's first vaccine after a thorough physical examination. A booster vaccination will need to be given 2-3 weeks later. After that, yearly vaccination is recommended. If you fail to booster the first vaccination, or wait longer than the recommended interval, your pet will not be protected against the common strains of leptospirosis.

Please call 516-379-6200 to schedule your dog for a leptospirosis vaccine today!


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