Vail pets: Dangerous disease making a comeback? |

Vail pets: Dangerous disease making a comeback?

Stephen Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –I’ve seen leptospirosis come and go over the years and, unfortunately for Vail Valley residents and their dogs, it is again on the rise. Recent data from Antech, one of our largest veterinary laboratories, reports that cases of this deadly disease have nearly doubled here.

If you read my articles you know I am not one to ring the alarm bell and I’m not ringing it now. Eagle County dogs are not dropping like flies from the disease. However, it can be transmitted to people from pets so it warrants our attention.

I’ve also been around the block and, along with everyone else, got caught with my pants down in the ’90s in Florida. We had stopped vaccinating for “lepto” because we didn’t see much of it and the vaccine caused adverse reactions. Then the dang bacteria changed and we had an outbreak. Many dogs across the country died so most of us started vaccinating against it- again.

The same scenario might be playing out now. The American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends all veterinarians divide vaccines into two groups, core and non-core. All dogs should receive the four core vaccines, but non-core vaccines are given on a case-by-case basis. Lepto currently is a non-core vaccine.

Leptospirosis will make your pet pretty sick pretty quickly and can be deadly. After it gets in your dog (transmitted mostly through urine) it gets into the bloodstream and usually damages the liver and kidneys pretty severely.

Not all animals get sick right away; some only show mild symptoms and some can become carriers. Many animals, including cattle and rodents, can harbor lepto.

Lepto can be treated if caught early enough, but the treatment requires intense therapy to minimize or reverse damage to internal organs. Pets are often hospitalized and quarantined. As you can guess it is an expensive disease to treat.

Lepto vaccination is currently recommended for hunting dogs and those who came into contact with standing water. It is a disease found in more temperate climates but now Colorado veterinarians are reporting more cases of it. The thinking about who should get the vaccine is changing as dogs are spending more time outdoors.

The newer vaccines include four strains of the lepto bacteria. We recommend them to all dogs expect though who are strictly house dogs. We are changing reluctantly, but we have done our homework and feel it is in the best interest of our patients. My pants are up this time around.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He is a past-president of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association and active member of the Colorado VMA.

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