What is Canine Leptospirosis?
Canine leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by a spirochete organism called Leptospira interogans. There are many different strains, or serovars, of Leptospira interogans that can infect dogs, with the most common being L. icterohaemorrhagiae, L. canicola, L. grippotyphosa and L. pomona.
Another potential issue with leptospirosis is the fact that the disease is also contagious to people. The most common method of exposure for both dogs and people is through contact with infected urine. Rodents are frequent carriers of leptospirosis and water (lakes, puddles, etc.) contaminated with urine is a potential source of infection for both you and your dog.
Leptospirosis Vaccination in Dogs
There are vaccinations that provide protection against leptospirosis for dogs. In fact, there are several different types of vaccines available. Some of the vaccines only protect against two serovars (strains) of leptospirosis while others provide protection against four different serovars. Though these four serovars account for a large percentage of the cases of leptospirosis seen, there are other serovars that can cause disease also. There is no vaccination that protects against all potentially infectious serovars of leptospirosis.
Another concern with the leptospirosis vaccine is that it is one of the more reactive vaccinations that we use in dogs. This vaccine is more likely to cause an allergic reaction for your dog than many of the other vaccines we routinely administer. However, even though the risk is increased in relation to other vaccinations, there is still only a small percentage of dogs that suffer allergic reactions resulting from leptospirosis vaccine administration.
Deciding Whether Your Dog Should Receive a Leptospirosis Vaccine
The leptospirosis vaccine is considered to be a non-core vaccination. As with any of the non-care vaccines, you and your veterinarian need to decide whether the risk of administering the vaccination outweighs the risk of not administering it. In other words, how likely is the possibility that your dog will become infected with leptospirosis? If the risk is low, the vaccination may not be appropriate for your dog.
That being said, leptospirosis is more common in some areas than in others. Knowing the incidence of leptospirosis in your area can help you decide whether the vaccine is an appropriate choice for your dog or not. Your veterinarian should be able to provide information about the frequency of disease in your community. That information, combined with an evaluation of your dog’s lifestyle, will be necessary to determine whether vaccination against leptospirosis is worthwhile for your dog or not.