Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a disease caused by Leptospira bacteria that can affect both animals and humans. It is currently the most common zoonotic disease in the world, that can be transmitted from animals to people.
How Is It Spread?
Lepto is carried by wildlife like rats, raccoons, and deer and is shed through urination. It is commonly found in lakes and streams and even in puddles of water but can also be found in soil. Your Dane does not necessarily need to swim in a body of water to contract the disease. Any dog that regularly goes outside is at risk
Is It Fatal?
The greatest concern with Leptospirosis is that it is difficult to diagnose and if left untreated, it can be fatal. The symptoms are very similar to other disease processes and may include: fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, stiffness, and muscle pain.
It is important to note that the disease can be transmitted to humans. If your Dane is infected, you and your family could be at risk. Without treatment, Leptospirosis can cause kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and even death in humans.
How Is Leptospirosis Treated?
If your Dane contracts Leptospirosis your veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics. If the disease is in the early stages, antibiotics can be effective. Still, most affected dogs will require intensive care and an extended course of antibiotics to ensure that the bacteria is cleared from their system. Failure to clear the bacteria could lead your Dane to become a chronic carrier of the disease.
Is The Vaccine Effective?
While the Leptospirosis vaccine is not a required immunization for dogs, it is highly recommended for any dog that regularly goes outside. Let’s face it, all dogs regularly go outside to use the bathroom. So this means that most veterinarians recommend the vaccine for all dogs.
There are multiple variations of the Leptospira bacteria and current vaccines do not protect against all of them. So, even if your Dane is vaccinated, they still may contract the disease. However, vaccination does significantly lower the risk. It is also important to note that the immune response that the vaccine promotes fades over time. This means that your Dane should be vaccinated annually.
Are There Side Effects To the Vaccine?
Just like any vaccine, there are potential side effects. Many dogs experience mild side effects from vaccinations including lethargy, stiffness, and muscle soreness. In rare cases, more severe reactions can occur, typically within the first few hours following vaccination. These reactions can be treated medically. If you are concerned that your Dane is having a severe reaction, get them back to the vet.
So, Should Your Dane Be Vaccinated?
As was mentioned earlier, Leptospirosis vaccinations are not required. However, most veterinarians recommend the annual vaccine. Modern vaccines are extremely safe and effective and the risk of a severe reaction is low.
Still, it is up to you as a pet parent to determine what you feel is best for your Dane. Just bear in mind that Leptospirosis is a real threat and almost all dogs are susceptible to the disease. Take the time to talk with your veterinarian before making a decision and gather as much information as possible.