Dog's Vaccine for Leptospirosis May Be Optional

Whether a dog needs a leptospirosis vaccine depends on where he lives.


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Q. Yesterday my vet checked my 8-week-old, 1.36-pound Chihuahua, Chico, for the first time. In five more weeks they want to give him leptospirosis and combo vaccinations. I have heard so many bad things about this, including a dog I know died after receiving it. Does my dog have to have this or can I tell them no? He lives indoors, and I see no risk for him. I do have another dog who goes out in our yard only, a German Shepherd Dog-Boxer mix. Both are healthy.

A. Hopefully I can help you and other dog owners sort out the confusion regarding vaccines.
First of all, serious complications from vaccines are rare, so in most cases the benefits of vaccination far exceed the risks. In some cases, vaccination can trigger a mild allergic reaction, including hives and facial swelling. In rare cases, the reaction is delayed and more severe, including vomiting, collapse and fever.
Some veterinarians speculate that over-vaccination can lead to over-stimulation of the immune system, and the destruction of the dog’s own blood cells by the white blood cells, but this has never been scientifically proven.
There is a certain group of vaccines that all dogs should get, regardless of lifestyle or individual differences. These are known as core vaccines, and are combined in one injection known as DA2PPv. The “D” stands for distemper virus, a deadly virus that causes neurological and respiratory problems. Adenovirus 2 is a type of infectious hepatitis (liver disease) that has largely been eradicated in dogs, but is still recommended. Parainfluenza is a mild respiratory virus. “Pv” stands for parvovirus, a highly contagious infection of the intestinal system and white blood cells. Another common combination is DHLPP, with the “H” referring to hepatitis and the “L” referring to leptospirosis.
The rabies vaccine is also considered a core vaccine, as well as a legal requirement in virtually all of the U.S. It is given either every year or every three years, depending on local regulations.
Another group of vaccines constitute the noncore vaccines. These are given individually based on the risk factors for each individual dog. Bordetella, corona virus, Lyme disease and leptospirosis are examples of noncore vaccines. Dog owners should discuss the risk factors for all of these noncore vaccines before agreeing to them.
The vaccine you asked about for leptospirosis protects dogs from an infection they will only get from contact with wildlife. In the past, this was seen mostly in farm dogs who were exposed to infected cattle. Now many urban dogs are exposed to leptospirosis due to contact with raccoons and other critters that have invaded residential areas. The disease is spread primarily through contact with urine.
If you have a one-pound Chihuahua who is going to be staying with you and not running around outside, a leptospirosis vaccination is probably unnecessary. As you pointed out, your Boxer mix hangs out outside in the yard, and could be at risk especially if there is leptospirosis in your region of the country. This is a dog who should be vaccinated.
One interesting note about vaccines is that both a one-pound dog and a hundred-pound dog get the same dose. This is not unlike human vaccination, where an infant and adult are both vaccinated with the same amount of influenza vaccine. The purpose of the vaccine is to stimulate the body’s own immune system to respond to the infectious organism, and the risk of side effects appears to be independent of the dose.

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Leslie - 233329   Lakeside, AZ

6/25/2013 11:18:47 AM

Thanks for the info. thanks

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chris   levittown, New York

12/14/2012 7:19:08 AM

I would like to tell my story we LOST our 2 year old morkie she was 4lbs.

we got her at 6 months old from a pet store with AKC puppies She was checked by top North Shore Vet and told she had all her shots. One year later when it was time for shots she had a reaction to rabies so they said she was good with anything she needed. She goes potty outside with our

golden but she is always sniffing ground. She was fine friday night and by Sunday she was dead everything shut down she turned yellow jaundice vomiting fever stroke wheezing they wanted to give her blood all from Leptospirosis. The 13 year old golden is fine she had low titer in her blood so she may have had exposure but had the vacine at yearly check up This is urban LI so YES YOU CAN GET LEPTO HERE MICE< RATS POSUM GET THE SHOT

we are so heart sick. The vet waited due to her size I am sure and it killed her don' t take the risk A mouse can carry it.

There will never be another puppy with her personality for us so dont let it happen to




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Sharon   NY, New York

10/17/2012 8:00:32 AM

A vet should only be recommending Lepto if your lifestyle supports doing other words do you camp with your dog? Do you live in a wooded area with allot of raccoons, possums, skunks? Do you have ponds nearby? These are the things to consider when vaccinating for Lepto...if you answer no to ALL of the above, it isn’t needed...and you do not vaccinate for Lepto younger than 16 weeks (4 months) of age...the initial shot is done in a series of 2, than it is once yearly. This also applies for the Lyme vaccine as well.

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Amanda   Clyde, Ohio

9/18/2012 7:56:24 PM

I personally think ALL dogs should get the lepto vaccine. If I would have gotten it for my dog, a 3 year old 15 lb daschund, he wouldn't have gotten it... I live in Ohio in a suburban area with a great neighborhood, two weeks after moving to mine and my fiance's house, my dog started vomiting continuously, very lethargic, and I finally had enough and had to take my poor Franklin to the vet after 3 long days of suffering, had to call the vet in on emergency(which was not my normal vet) originally the vet thought he had pancreatitis and dehydration originally he had him on fluids for the rest of labor day weekend, then on Tuesday, he called back in the morning, and I found out my poor little Franklin had kidney failure. They wanted to run tests to find out the cause, and sure enough it was leptospirosis, he was never outside longer than to just go to the bathroom or walks. He stayed in the vets office for about 7 days on fluids and medications, sucalfate for gi tract, martipant for anti-nausea, and finally doxycycline for the antibiotic. At the end of the week, Franklin was at home for the weekend to see if him being home will help keep his spirits up. He was definitely happy to be home, but his weight went down during hospitalization we were trying to get his weight up, but during the time of him being home, he wouldn't want to eat or drink. Monday came along and the vet put him on subcutaneous(under the skin) fluids and a chlorehexdrine spray for the mouth because he got ulcers from the uremia(from kidney failure) we put him on the fluids and the spray along with the medications, but he still wasn't getting any better, just before we were losing hope, his tongue fell off, yes your reading that correctly, his tongue fell off, because of the uremia about two days ago, but the next day, he was great! His personality was so much better and he regained his appetite, and finally today, he's running around, now only 9 lbs, regaining appetite and learning how to eat and drink without a tongue, he's completely fine nonetheless, his kidney function is back to normal personality back to normal, and leptospirosis gone.

But if I got the vaccination, he wouldnt have gotten this horrible aggressive infection. A swollen muzzle isn't as bad as your family, companion, and best friend having this, almost dying, losing his tongue, and finally over $1,500 in vet bills, trust me.

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