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Leptospirosis: Are You Providing Adequate Protection for Your Canine Patients?

Leptospirosis, caused by the spirochete bacteria Leptospira, is a zoonotic disease that occurs worldwide in domestic animals, wildlife and humans. The disease is similar in all animals and humans and may include fever, jaundice, kidney failure, abortion, and death. Leptospira bacteria are shed in urine and survive for months in moist soil, standing water, or streams.1 Therefore, prevention of shedding through vaccination may reduce the potential for further contamination of the local environment. You can check with your vaccine manufacturer to see if your vaccine has a label claim to prevent bacterial shedding.

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Leptospirosis is found throughout the US and traditional risk factors have changed. Frequency of previously diagnosed cases in your clinic is not a good method of evaluating the prevalence in your area. The environmental risk factors for contracting leptospirosis include walking or swimming in bodies of water, drinking outdoor water, and exposure to wild animals. It is important to note that signalment has changed over the past 40 years: there has been an increased risk of contact between wildlife reservoir hosts and dogs due to high density of urban wildlife and increasing urbanization.2 There has also been an increased prevalence of leptospirosis in dogs less than 15 lbs, from 2000 to 2009.2

In addition to understanding the true prevalence of leptospirosis, veterinarians should ensure they are using a vaccine that provides comprehensive* protection against this important disease. RECOMBITEK® C8 is a non-adjuvanted combination vaccine that protects dogs from the four common leptospirosis serovars and several core canine diseases. It is the only vaccine that prevents leptospirosis and leptospiruria (shedding) for three serovars, and it is the only vaccine to provide a 15-month duration of immunity for Leptospira grippotyphosa.3

Leptospirosis Merial Raccoon

In the L. grippotyphosa challenge study, 20 nine-week-old specific pathogen-free puppies were vaccinated with the RECOMBITEK vaccine subcutaneously,twice, 21 days apart, and 21 additional puppies served as negative controls. Four hundred seventy days (15.5 months) after the second vaccination, both groups were administered a dog virulent L. grippotyphosa challenge (RM52 isolate). Seventy-six percent of the controls developed leptospirosis.3 All vaccinated dogs were protected from leptospirosis despite being commingled with control dogs actively shedding spirochetes in their urine. This study shows that RECOMBITEK C8 provides great long-term protection against this important disease.

In summary, leptospirosis is a prevalent and important worldwide zoonosis. Stay up-to-date on the changing risk factors for this infection, and ensure you use a vaccine that provides optimal protection for both disease and the bacterial shedding that can further contaminate the local environment.

*Protection against leptospirosis and leptospiruria caused by the four serovars L. grippotyphosa, L. pomona, L. canicola, and L. icterohaemorrhagiae.

1. Greene CE, Sykes JE, et al. Leptospirosis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. 4th ed. St Louis, MO; Elsevier Saunders; 2012;431-447.
2. Lee HS, Guptill AJ, Johnson AJ, Moore GE, Signalment Changes in Canine Leptospirosis between 1970 and 2009. J Vet Intern Med 2014;28:294-299.
3. RECOMBITEK 4 Lepto Product Label

®RECOMBITEK is a registered trademark of Merial.

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