To vaccinate for Leptospirosis or NOT to vaccinate for Leptospirosis in Barrett Weimaraners?
Everything we do or don’t do has pros and cons. Health is paramount to the Barrett breeding program and every precaution is made to minimize the occurrence of autoimmune issues in the puppies we breed. This includes vaccine reactions.
Because of this, we’re generally not concerned about vaccine reactions for puppies we’ve bred.
And no, as a practice we don’t want to over-vaccinate our puppies, but there are times when it’s necessary to do more than core vaccines.
In the case of Leptospirosis, being careful isn’t enough to prevent your puppy from contracting the virus.
In order to understand whether or not your puppy is at risk for contracting Leptospirosis, let’s talk about what the virus is, how it spreads, and how it affects your dog.
What is Leptospirosis? Leptospirosis a zoonotic (meaning it can spread from animals to people) infectious disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria.
What happens when a dog is infected? The virus attacks the kidneys and liver. This is why dogs who are infected with Leptospirosis are typically always thirsty and drink excessively. Fortunately, an otherwise healthy dog with a strong immune system will develop antibodies over the course of about ten days and fight off the infection naturally. Antibiotics also work very well. The prognosis for puppies (who typically have weak immune systems) or severely infected dogs, however, is more guarded since multiple organ damage can spiral into rapid deterioration and sometimes, death.
How is Leptospirosis spread? Peeing animals! No, really. Leptospirosis is spread through urine of infected animals, like skunks, raccoons, opossums, rats, wolves, and deer. This is why historically, Leptospirosis has been known as the country dog disease. The bacteria can also live in warm stagnant water or wet soil (bacteria love warm environments!) for a long time, and dogs become infected when they pass through splashing in the water or sniffing in the soil (as dogs like to do) and the bacteria enters their body through their eyes, nose, mouths, and open sores or scratches in their skin.
Leptospirosis can be brought right into your own backyard by a raccoon peeing on your lawn at midnight. If your dog walks over it at 8 am to pee, and the virus gets into his nose because he’s sniffing the grass, BOOM. He’s infected.
Deer are more prevalent in remote areas (like in the Tehachapi Mountains where Kim lives) but it’s VERY possible for opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats to wander through a suburban backyard (like in Phoenix proper where Stacy lives).
Think about where you live and whether or not having animal urine infected with Leptospirosis is a real possibility. If there’s a Leptospirosis outbreak in your area (and you would find this out by giving your vet a call and asking them if they’ve seen an increase in recent cases), you may want to consider vaccinating for it. It’s best to wait a few weeks after any other vaccines.
Additional things to know about Leptospirosis:
- Due to multiple known strains, vaccination does not equal 100% protection. For the same reason, dogs are not protected for life. (Think of like a flu shot, you have to get one every year, and even if you get the flu shot, you may still come down with the flu because you were infected by a strain that wasn’t covered by your shot.)
- Vaccines that cover four strains (Leptospira Canicola- Grippotyphosa-Icterohaemorrhagiae-Pomona) are recommended for Barrett Weimaraners. Kim (in Southern CA) keeps a supply of Merck Nobivac Canine Lepto 4 on-hand. Any Barrett Puppy Owner is welcome to tap into this supply at any time.
Los Angeles County, CA Puppy Owners: The LA County Department of Public Health keeps data on Leptospirosis cases here. In July 2021, the Department published specific data regarding a spike in cases. This is documented here.
Leptospirosis in dogs in Los Angeles County in 2021. In July 2021, Veterinary Public Health noted a large increase in reported confirmed and suspected canine leptospirosis cases. Most of the affected dogs either live in or had exposures in locations on the west side of the county or the San Fernando Valley. A number of dogs may have been exposed at a boarding facility in Santa Monica, but others may have been exposed at dog parks or beaches. Many infected pets required hospitalization and extensive care. At this time, there have been no reports of people becoming ill after exposure to the infected dogs. With this recent increase in canine cases, it is very important for veterinarians to consider leptospirosis as a possible cause when dogs are seen at their veterinary facility with lethargy, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, increased thirst, increased urination, vomiting, or evidence of kidney or liver damage on bloodwork.
Below is a chart from that notice:
This chart includes cases reported to Veterinary Public Health with onset date available. There are 12 cases without a reported onset date that are pending investigation and which are not included in this chart. Two asymptomatic cases are included, the lab confirmed date is used for those.