Vaccine improvements encourage policy change
New emerging strains of one of the most common and potentially deadly dog diseases ‘Leptospirosis’ have prompted Milton Keynes Veterinary Group to launch a new vaccination policy in a bid to protect the local dog population from this and other fatal diseases.
Leptospirosis is a widespread disease which is carried by rodents such as the rat and other animals. It is a serious disease that infects dogs, and even people, potentially fatal to both. It is passed via an infected animal’s urine or from contaminated water, so almost any dog that goes outside is at risk. This risk is currently heightened due to the recent widespread wet weather and flooding, and extra precautions are being advised. Early diagnosis can be complicated due to symptoms being vague, but as the disease progresses, symptoms include stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea and lethargy. Following infection some dogs become long-term carriers that whilst appearing healthy, can put others at risk of disease. However, the good news is that like Parvovirus the disease can be prevented by vaccination. In recent years, more strains of Leptospirosis have appeared so we are now using new vaccines that are available, providing higher levels of protection against four strains of leptospirosis, rather than just two strains covered by traditional vaccines. These vaccines also helps to protect the local dog population and environment by preventing the spread of this disease via dogs’ urine.
As well as dog owners benefiting from this up-to-date vaccine, there is also good news for puppy owners as this vaccine can be used in puppies as young as six weeks of age, if needed. This means puppies can be protected from deadly viral disease as early as nine weeks of age.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects blood, liver or kidneys. There are several different types of leptospira that can be responsible for the disease. New strains have been identified in recent years, and they can affect dogs and also humans. It is carried by rodents, such as rats, and other animals, including cattle, sheep and dogs.How common is leptospirosis?
The disease does occur in the UK, affecting stray or unvaccinated dogs. In urban areas, it is mainly spread by the urine of infected dogs, whereas in rural areas, another type of leptospira is more common and is spread by the urine of rats. Due to routine vaccination, the disease in Britain is now less than it was but it does still occur. New strains have been identified in recent years and vaccinations have been developed to include 4 strains instead of the two years covered by traditional vaccines.How is it transmitted?
It is passed via an infected animal’s urine or from contaminated water. Ingestion is the most important means of transmission, but some forms can penetrate damaged or very thin skin. The incubation period is usually 4-12 days.
Extra precautions are advised following the recent wet weather and flooding that we have been experiencing.
What are the signs of Leptospirosis?
Some infections are undetected and show no symptoms, but the dog can still act as a carrier. Acute cases can be life-threatening. There are three main forms of the disease: haemorrhagic (bleeding), icteric or jaundiced form (involving the liver), and also the renal type. In the acute disease there is a high fever with lethargy and loss of appetite. Bloody diarrhoea and vomiting are common. This form can rapidly be fatal. If the liver is mainly affected, although the early signs are similar to the haemorrhagic form, jaundice a yellow colour can occur and affect the mouth or the whites of the eyes. Sometimes even the skin is yellow. In the renal form, kidney failure can occur. The dog is very lethargic, off food and vomits. Often the breath is offensive and there are ulcers on the tongue and inside the lips. If the dog recovers, chronic kidney disease often follows.What is the treatment?
Since leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria, appropriate antibiotic treatment is effective if the condition is diagnosed early enough. Dogs are often so ill when presented that hospitalisation and intensive nursing care, including intravenous fluids, are usually necessary.How can it be prevented?
Leptospirosis has been included in vaccination regimes for many years as part of the routine vaccination programme. Protection against the new strains of leptospirosis have been improved with the introduction of the L4 part of the vaccine. Previously, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae and Leptospira canocola were the two strains covered. The L4 vaccine has both of these in addition to protection against L.bratislava and L.grippotyphosa. The vaccines give a minimum of 12 months protection.
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