What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto for short) is caused by a bacterium that attacts the liver and the kidney in both people and animals.  The cat, luckily, is one species that seems to be resistant to the bacterial infection. The Leptospires are sprirochetes that live in water and have a spiral shape with a hook on each end. People and animals bcecome infected from swimming or drinking contaminated water or in direct contact with urine from an infected animal, such as raccoons, rodents or cattle. The Lepto spirochete has an uncanny ability to penetrate unbroken skin.  Once the victim is infected, the bacteria attacks  the kidney, the liver or the blood system. Signs begin to appear four to twelve days after exposure with signs varying depending on what organ is being attacked.

If the kidneys are attacked, renal failure can result. Early signs are fever, listlessness, excessive thirst and urination progressing to kidney shut down and the inability to make urine. Often times, the urine may appear brown or reddish.

If the liver is affected, the liver is damaged and the body becomes yellow or jaundiced. There will also be vomiting, fever and general illness.

The worst form is the hemorrhagic form. The dog will have a fever and develop small hemorrhages in the skin. The disease progresses to internal bleeding and bloody diarrhea and urine. This form is often fatal.

Diagnosis is often difficult because the early signs are similar to other diseases and antibody titers do not rise early in the disease.

Treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy, such as intravenous fluids and a lengthy hospital stay. The fluids from the infected dog will shed the bacterium for several weeks, so care must be taken not to expose family members or hospital staff. Antibiotics are given for a few weeks after the illness to ensure killing all of the organisms. Some dogs may have lingering kidney damage resulting in chronic renal failure.

Prevention for dogs is accomplished with vaccinations. There are 4 major strains of Lepto that the vaccines will protect for. Every now and then, there are other strains that can pop up that are not covered by vaccinations. Since dogs are more likely to be exposed,  protecting them with vaccinations will help reduce possible exposure to their human friends. The downside is the lepto vaccine can cause allergic reactions in dogs. The reactions ususually result in hives or facial swelling and can be relieved with anti-histamines. I see more reactions in the Dachshunds than any other breed for some reason. Sometimes the vaccine may also cause soreness for a few days.  I feel that the benefits of vaccinating for this disease outweighs the risks of the vaccine, especially, since my clients live in a wooded neighborhood with possibility of exposure. If your dog lives in an apartment and never goes to the woods, swims in lakes or streams,  or has exposure to garbage where rodents may get into (a common source of infection), you and your veterinarian may fore go vaccinating.

Puppy Care

Congratulations! Bringing home a new puppy is fun, but it is also a huge responsibility that lasts its lifetime, which can sometimes reach 12 to 18 years or longer. The first six months of your puppies life are the most critical and establishes his health and behavior for the rest of his life.puppy You, as the puppies advocate, must ensure he is protected from disease with a series of vaccinations and effective monthly parasite control. Thousands of inadequately vaccinated puppies never make it to see their first birthday because of diseases such as parvovirus and distemper. Thousands more will die from heartworm disease from the bite of one single mosquito, and even more may succumb to intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, even before they even reach 2 months old.

The majority of dogs relinquished to animal shelters is usually because of behavioral issues, such as dog aggressiveness that results in a dog bite, the inability to house train or unruly and destructive behavior. These are natural tendencies in dogs, and it is your responsibility to learn the how the dog thinks and use the natural, instinctive pack leadership skills to effectively modify both you and your dog’s behavior and solidify a great and rewarding relationship with your new puppy and family

Puppy proofing your home is another safety precaution you must establish. There are several hazards to young puppies you must look out for, such as electrical cords, toxic houseplants, foods that must not be fed, and toxic substances that need to be secured. Providing a safe haven for your puppy, such as a crate, when you are away, will keep him out of trouble and will also hasten house training.

There is so much more that I want to share with you that I have developed a series of newsletters and videos to help you take great care of your puppy and then well into his senior years. Register for my puppy care newsletter and you will also get some bonus e-books.

Recommendations for Puppies

Age 2, 4, 6 weeks of age

* deworm for hookworms and roundworms
* check for other intestinal parasites such as coccidia, tapeworms, whipworms and giardia

6-8 weeks of age

* Wellness Examination (WE) Check eyes, ears, heart, lungs, teeth, and other structures.
* DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, )
* Parasite Check
* Dewormer
* Start Heartworm preventative
* Start Flea medication
* Behavior counseling (crate training)

12 weeks

* Wellness Exam
* DHPP #2
* Bordetella #1
* Leptospirosis #1 (4 way)
* Dewormer
* Heartworm and Flea medication

16 weeks

* Wellness Exam
* DHPP#3
* Rabies
* Lepto #2
* Bordetella #2
* Heartworm and Flea medications

5months and older

* Spay or neuter
* Blood profile to screen for congenital problems prior to surgery
* give heartworm and flea medication every month all year round
* feed high quality pet foods, avoid generic brands
* Start getting your pet used to brushing teeth while they are young.

10months old

* parvo booster
* bordetella booster
* parasite check


* Wellnes Examination
* Rabies
* Leptospirosis
* Bordetella
* Heartworm (Erhlichia and Lyme) test
* Parasite Check
* Lyme booster
* Giardia booster
* If pet has received 2 Rabies Vaccinations exactly 365 days or less in a row, then pet may go to a Rabies injection every 3 years. If the two vaccines are more than 365 days apart, then they must get another vaccine within the year.
* Pets age 7 years for every 1 calender year. Physical exams on a bi-annual basis are a good way to screen for health problems before they become major.

Dr. Debra Garrison
Dr. Debra Garrison