Vaccinating Against Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis

Lyme and Leptospirosis (Lepto) are two vaccines that are recommended for all pets, especially those who lead an outdoor lifestyle (camping, hiking, live in areas with wildlife going through the yard). Both vaccines are given as an initial vaccine and need to be boostered 3-4 weeks later. After the initial set of vaccines, Lyme and Lepto need to be updated yearly.

Lyme Borreliosis (most commonly called Lyme Disease) is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases we see in this area. It is caused by a bacteria species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group, transmitted by a deer tick. The tick typically needs to be attached for at least 24 hours to be able to transmit the infection.

Here at Colonial Terrace, our heartworm test (called the 4Dx) includes screening for exposure to Lyme disease and two other tick-borne diseases we see in the area: Erchlicia and Anaplasmosis. About 1 in every 10 dogs tested come up positive for exposure to Lyme disease. The test is performed in clinic with a small blood sample. Lyme exposure is most often caught when performing a yearly heartworm test, and therefore is able to be treated before issues may arise.

Lyme disease can present in with many symptoms to no symptoms at all. Shifting lameness (lameness in more than one leg at different times) is commonly seen due to inflammation of the joints. Lameness may last for a few days, only to reoccur days or weeks later. Other symptoms can include lack of appetite, lethargy, sensitivity to touch, and fever. Lyme disease can also cause severe kidney issues.

Lyme disease is typically treatable with a month-long course of an antibiotic called Doxycycline. If symptoms reoccur at a later time, a Quant C6 test (which checks for an antibody titer level) may be recommended. Pets that have been exposed to Lyme disease in the past can become re-infected, even if treatment was successful the first time. Keeping your pet on monthly flea and tick preventatives, getting the yearly Lyme vaccine, and checking your pet for ticks after being in a high-risk area are easy ways to help prevent Lyme disease in your dog.

Leptospirosis is another bacterial infection that dogs can become infected with. Unlike Lyme disease, which has to be transmitted through a tick, Lepto is a zoonotic disease meaning humans can become infected with Lepto if they were in contact with infected urine or bodily fluids. Lepto is transmitted by a dog ingesting infected urine, most commonly by ingesting water from an infected stagnant water source or eating dirt that had been urinated on by an infected animal such as a deer or other wildlife.

Symptoms of Lepto include sudden onset of fever, sore muscles, lethargy/weakness, lack of appetite, and vomiting /diarrhea. Like Lyme disease, Lepto can cause severe kidney issues, leading to kidney failure if left undiagnosed and/or treated. Lepto can be tested for in-house with a Lepto Snap test. This requires a small amount of blood, similar to the Lyme test.

Once diagnosed, treatment can include intravenous fluid therapy to correct any dehydration, medications to help control vomiting, antibiotics, and other medications for symptomatic care. A treatment plan to be made by your veterinarian based on symptoms and severity. Because Lepto is a zoonotic disease, extreme care is needed when handling urine or bodily fluids of an infected pet. Lepto can be shed through the urine several weeks after treatment. Anyone in the home, including children or other pets, should be evaluated by their doctor for possible exposure. Appropriate handling of infected fluids is the way to prevent the spread of Lepto in a home or hospital setting.

While both of these diseases can be devastating, we are fortunate to have vaccines available to help keep your dog and your family safe!