VAIL, Colorado --Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can infect dogs and cats in Colorado's Vail Valley. It also infects many wild animals and humans.
Wild animals can carry the bacteria and shed it in their urine, contaminating the environment. Backyard wildlife, which is abundant in our Vail Valley, can be an important source of this infection. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, voles, deer and elk can all spread the bacteria.
Pets and people often exposed to leptospira bacteria by drinking contaminated water. But other contaminated sources are bedding, soil, food and vegetation. The organism penetrates through the lining of the mouth, abraded skin and bite wounds.
The reason we are discussing leptospirosis disease is because it has been reemerging over the last several years. Large-breed dogs who spend time outdoors are most likely to get it, however all dogs are at risk. Any dog who goes hiking in the valley can be exposed at any time.
The incidence of infection is highest in the summer and fall and increases during wet periods after rainfall. Because wild animals carry and shed the leptospira organism in the environment, prevention of exposure is unrealistic.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine for our pets to prevent or at least decrease the severity of the disease. The leptospira vaccine is given at 12 weeks of age and boostered in three to four weeks. Then an annual vaccine is given.
There have been an occasional reaction to the vaccine (facial swelling, itching, etc.), and seems to occur more frequently in small-breed dogs and puppies under nine weeks of age. It is advisable to vaccinate your pet because the disease can become severe and even fatal. Another important fact is that humans can become infected as well.
Leptospira disease occurs four to 12 days post infection. The primary organs targeted are the kidneys and the liver. Infection in vaccinated dogs and cats is usually barely symptomatic. I
f an unvaccinated pet is infected the symptoms usually occur as follows: anorexia, depression, fever, vomiting, dehydration, stiffness. When the kidneys are infected, they become painful and kidney symptoms develop. Liver symptoms can then occur as well. Then in severe cases, tissues become swollen and bleeding in various parts of the body follow.
Treatment involves intravenous fluids and antibiotics. If treated early, most dogs can survive but some may have continuing kidney problems. Leptospirosis is an important disease that has been reintroduced into Colorado. The annual vaccine is the way to prevent your pet from getting sic.
Veterinarian Nadine Lober can be reached at 970-949-7972