We are all familiar with the concept of vaccination, receiving immunisation as children and further protection when we are exposed to risk – perhaps when we travel, or as we get older and our immune system weakens.
Our pets also have regular injections, and over the next few weeks I’m going to look in detail at the diseases they protect against and what is required to maintain immunity.
Leptospirosis is a disease of dogs which can also affect people.
Although human cases are often mild there is a severe form, known as Weil’s Disease, but it is very rare, with only about 40 cases reported a year in the UK.
Leptospirosis is caught by contact with soil or water contaminated with urine from affected animals, which include cattle, pigs and rodents, particularly rats.
Dogs are infected in the same way, and can also spread the disease to humans.
They may suffer mild non-specific signs, such as lethargy and depression, to more severe signs, such as abdominal pain, jaundice, liver damage and even death.
Around 250 cases are documented in the UK each year, but a definitive diagnosis is not always possible and it is thought that leptospirosis could also be implicated in many cases of chronic liver and kidney disease.
Vaccination against leptospirosis is with what is known as an inactivated vaccine, which is very safe, and adverse reactions are rare, but it does mean that the immunity needs to be boosted annually, as it has been shown to wane after 12 to 18 months.
Because of the reservoir of infection in the wild and the small but significant risk to humans we do recommend an annual vaccination against leptospirosis, but if you require further information your vet would be happy to discuss it with you at your pet’s annual health check.
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