Franklin Vets Blog
Lepto – protect your dog & you protect your family
Coming from South Africa, wet trails are not really something I’ve had to deal with. Warthog? Yes. Snakes? Heck yes. Ticks? Miss your Bravecto and your dog WILL pick up a life-threatening tick-transmitted disease. Mud…not so much.
Myself and my German Shorthaired Pointer, Remmi, like to run trails. In the mountains – even better. We’ve been running a fair bit around the Coromandel, Taupo and Rotorua. Most trails have been moist at best and wet to muddy at their worst. So what does this mean for my dog Remmi who comes from a country where conditions are generally a lot drier?
Bacteria like warmth and moisture. I have been led to believe that NZ has had an unusually mild winter this year. For farmers, this is good news. For bacteria, this is even better news! Leptospirosis is shed in the urine of multiple species and guess what: rats, deer, pigs and possums are on that list. If I’m out running with Remmi and she comes into contact with any such urine and I haven’t had her vaccinated, we would be in trouble. I say WE because Lepto is a zoonosis meaning it can be transferred to humans too. Dairy farmers vaccinate their cows against it because being in such close contact with their animals puts them at risk of contracting it.
Running long distance through the bush means Remmi often stops to drink from puddles or pulls off for a swim. Rain will wash infected urine out of the soil and this ends up in puddles or can even end up in pastures if flooding washes it that far. Lepto can enter the body through skin cuts and abrasions, the lining of the mouth, nose and eyes. This means you do not necessarily have to go looking for it…often it finds you.
Generally, the initial infection (which causes high fever and lethargy) is fought off by the dog but the leptospires can hide in the kidneys (explaining why it is spread in urine) and liver causing severe damage to these organs. Young dogs are at even greater risk. The tricky thing with Lepto is that it can present with varying signs. By the time it is picked up, quite often it is too late, extensive organ damage has occurred and these animals end up dying or being put to sleep.
Think stagnant, muddy areas frequented by wildlife.
Think dogs that get kenneled frequently – if there is the possibility that rats might visit their kennels, this is a danger – rats often shed Lepto in their urine.
Think dogs swimming, passing through muddy areas, drinking from puddles out in the bush or coming into contact with areas contaminated with infected urine.
How many of these boxes do hunting and other sport dogs tick? Remmi drinks from puddles, she bombs through mud, she will stop to nibble on a dead possum. If this is was your dog, kenneled at home, living on or visiting farm pastures, running in the bush, running in the mud, swimming, hunting deer, pigs or possums, you need to get on top of their Leptospirosis vaccinations. This is the only effective prevention plan. It is a once-yearly vaccine. It works. It is safe. Remmi has had hers. Make sure your sport dogs have theirs too. By protecting your dogs you are indirectly protecting your whole family.
Dr Dan Alexander BVSc