Leptospira is a specialized bacteria called a spirochete. Leptospira has many different varieties (called serovars) that are capable of infecting a wide variety of mammals, including raccoons, squirrels, rats, foxes, skunks, opossums, humans, and dogs.
The organism is typically contracted via contact with infected fluids from infected animals, primarily urine. Dogs can contract the disease from investigating areas where wild animals have urinated, but also from playing in water that may be contaminated with urine such as ponds and lakes. Humans can contract the disease by contact with infected urine as well.
The disease varies in its severity, but can have serious or even fatal effects on the liver, kidneys, and other organs.
The disease found most commonly in geographic areas that contain large areas of water and marshlands like the Midwest, but has recently been diagnosed in Fort Collins, Boulder, and along the Front Range as well. Update: In the last year, Friendship has diagnosed several patients with leptospirosis who were local dogs with no travel or swimming history. We have to assume that these dogs were infected in their own backyards by neighborhood wildlife.
Previous vaccine products for this disease were associated with a high number of vaccine-associated reactions. However, a new vaccine has been produced that seems to be less reactive and better tolerated, with reaction rates appearing to be similar to those seen with our traditional vaccines.
No vaccine can protect against all possible serovars of Leptospira, however, this vaccines does protect against four of the most commonly seen serovars.
Vaccination is initiated with a single injection, followed by a booster in 3-4 weeks. Then, the vaccine is boosted yearly.
We urge vaccination against Leptospirosis for dogs who spend time swimming, dogs who encounter wildlife in their home or travel environments, or dogs who travel out of Colorado to areas where Leptospira is prevalent. However, since the wildlife mammals who carry the disease are common throughout Fort Collins, any dog could be considered at risk, and we recommend that all dog owners consider vaccinating their dogs against the disease.
Please contact us if you would like more information about whether Leptospirosis vaccination is right for your dog.