It seems that every year or so, somewhere in the country there are dire warnings about an outbreak of leptospirosis. This year it’s Chicago’s turn, with TV news stations warning that “your dog could die just from sniffing.” Sniffing rat urine, they mean.
The warnings about lepto are especially dire because it’s a zoonotic disease, meaning it can infect humans too.
There are press releases from big veterinary emergency clinics too.
Vets Recommend Lepto Vaccination
And then there’s the inevitable recommendation that you vaccinate your dog.
The words “not 100% effective” in the above quote are an understatement. Keep reading to find out why the leptospirosis vaccine is not only ineffective, but potentially quite dangerous for your dog.
So if you’re alarmed by the thought of your dog catching lepto, and wondering whether you should give your dog the leptospirosis vaccine, you may first want to read some facts about the disease and the vaccine.
Leptospirosis vaccine reactions are quite frequent. It’s important to weigh the risks of vaccinating vs not vaccinating very carefully.
What Is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a contagious disease that can affect both humans and animals. It’s spread by infection with Leptospira, bacterial pathogens that can cause liver and kidney disease in dogs. The bacteria is usually spread through direct contact with infected urine or indirectly through contaminated vegetation, soil, food or water, In cities, the urine of rats and other rodents can spread the disease.
Lepto is most common in warm, moist environments, during rainy seasons and in tropical climates. The organism survives better in stagnant rather than flowing water. It can live 180 days in wet soil or marshy areas.
Leptospirosis In Dogs
Healthy dogs who come in contact with the bacteria may never exhibit symptoms. And in most cases, lepto is highly treatable when it’s recognized early. Learn these symptoms so you can catch it quickly if your dog gets infected. The illness can develop quickly so take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect lepto infection.
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Blood in urine
- Jaundice (yellow tinge in the lining of the mouth or whites of the eyes)
There’s a very acute form of the disease where dogs may experience rapid breathing and rapid, irregular pulse, coughing up of blood, tarry feces, nosebleed, red or purple spots on the skin. They may be reluctant to move and very sensitive to pain or touch, and have enlarged lymph nodes. This form of the disease moves very fast and can be fatal.
About Lepto Vaccination
Many dogs are routinely vaccinated for lepto, despite high adverse effects.
Here’s a summary of what you need to know about the lepto vaccine before deciding to give it to your dog.
You must vaccinate for lepto at least yearly
Unlike viral vaccines which likely last for the life of the animal, bacterial vaccines such as lepto only last for a year at most. This means that many vets recommend vaccinating every six months to protect your dog. Leading veterinary immunologist Ronald D Schultz PhD has said that you may need to give a lepto vaccine as often as four times a year. As you’ll see below, the lepto vaccine involves a high level of risk for your dog.
The Vaccine Is Limited
The lepto vaccine may not cover the strain of lepto your dog encounters.
There are 20 different species of Leptospira bacteria and more than 200 different serovars. The original vaccines contained only the L. canicola and L. icterohaemorrhagiae serovars. The current vaccines now contain L. grippotyphosa and L. pomona. The latter two strains are now much more common. Two additional serovars that appear to cause infection, L. bratislava and L. automalis, are not included in the vaccines currently available.
So if you do decide to vaccinate your dog, it’s a very good idea to find out which strains of lepto are in your area so that you don’t give your dog a risky vaccination that won’t even protect him.
Vaccinated Dogs Shed Lepto
Vaccinated dogs and livestock can shed lepto in their urine. This means they can infect other dogs, wildlife and even you. So routine lepto vaccination actually increases the threat of lepto on the whole. The greater the number of vaccinated animals, the greater the spread of lepto.
There is a high rate of adverse effects from the lepto vaccine. Veterinarian Patricia Jordan DVM has documented several cases of tumors from the lepto vaccine, especially from combination vaccinations that include leptospirosis. Kidney failure is another common reaction, as you’ll see below. Bacterial vaccinations can also cause autoimmune disease.
In the UK, where leptospirosis vaccination is quite common, Canine Health Concern conducted a survey and found that the vaccine can also cause the disease it’s meant to prevent.
In that survey, 100% of dogs with leptospirosis caught it just after their lepto vaccinatons. Leptospirosis attacks the kidneys and kidney failure was a very common effect after lepto vaccination. Dr Jordan explains that the basement membrane can be damaged by clogging when the immune complexes drain via the lymphatics. The kidneys are a big part of the lymphatic system. The body tries to clear the toxins in the vaccines and the kidneys are damaged by this clearing mechanism.
There’s a long list of other documented adverse effects from the lepto vaccine:
- Infection with flesh-eating bacteria
- Uncontrollable pruritis (itching)
- Kidney Failure
- Liver Failure
- Mast cell disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Chronic weight loss
- Enlarged spleen
- Enlarged lymph nodes
No Human Lepto Vaccine
There’s no lepto vaccine licensed for humans in the US. Some of the reasons for this are:
- Unacceptable side effects
- Incomplete and short lived protection
- Increased risk of auto-immune disease
- Even if the vaccination provides protection, it won’t prevent leptospiuria (Leptospira in the urine) so the disease can still be spread
So the lepto vaccine isn’t safe for humans, but it’s OK to give it to our dogs?
Nosodes – A Safer Alternative
Homeopathic nosodes are safe and have been shown to be highly effective nosode. The Cuban government has successfully used homeopathic nosodes to prevent lepto in its citizens. In 2007 when post-hurricane flooding exposed residents to lepto risk, 2.3 million people were safely immunized at a small fraction of the cost of vaccination.
If you think your dog’s at risk for lepto, you may want to contact a homeopathic veterinarian about using nosodes. You can find a homeopath at theavh.org or pivh.org. Many will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.