Special vaccine encouraged for Omaha dogs as Leptospirosis becomes prevalent

By on August 25, 2013

A bacterial organism called Leptospira has been increasingly found  in Omaha’s canine population over the past couple of years. This year, many local Vets and the Centers for Disease Control are recommending the two part vaccine even though there has been some controversy surrounding it. While the vaccine is thought to prevent the disease, there is no evidence that it stops the dogs from carrying it. To protect your pet from possibly lethal consequences and lessen the odds of human contraction, most agree that it is prudent to pursue the vaccine.

Leptospirosis is a potentially serious disease spread through the infected animals’ urine found in contaminated soil and water. Dogs and humans can be exposed by drinking, walking, or swimming in that water. Bacteria from contaminated soil or water can enter the body through the skin or mucus membranes found in the eyes, nose and mouth.

Both dogs and humans can exhibit a range of symptoms from none at all, to very noticeable things. Symptoms can appear flu-like with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and others. If treated early enough, antibiotics are a successful mode of treatment for pets and usually all that is needed for humans. Advanced symptoms in the dogs, however, can extend into more invasive and costly treatments that are perhaps deadly.

There is a simple test for both humans and dogs to determine if the disease is present. It is not standard practice at this time to do the test, since dog vaccines are recommended regardless of whether the infection is present.

The best time to get this vaccine is in spring. Even if the standard vaccinations aren’t required until later in the year, you are encouraged to seek this one in particular early in the season.

This disease has been around for a long time, but was more frequent in rural areas and in tropical locations. Experts have no clear answer why there’s been a noted increase of cases in Omaha suburban areas. One theory is that building expansion has caused a larger integration of carriers like possums, raccoons, and mice into more populated areas. Another is that animals from areas where the disease has been more prevalent have come to Omaha as a result of rescue from events like Hurricane Katrina and the busting of country puppy mills where the incidence of many diseases is more common.

At this time, the Nebraska Humane Society is not vaccinating their dogs for this disease. Cats can also carry and contract Leptospirosis, but at this time, the cases are less common. Ask your Vet for more information on this topic if you have any concerns.

Image credit: kimotofoto; also, thanks to Kim Justus for the information above.

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