Lepto Vaccine: Should I or Shouldn’t I

November 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

I am asked quite often if a dog owner should be giving a Leptospirosis vaccine to their dog. In typical non-committal the owner makes the final decisions about their dog fashion I usually answer – “it depends”.

lepto raccoonTo be honest I am on the fence about it. In Illinois and in Indiana, which is where I live, it is endemic. Meaning it is all over the place here. There are estimates of 50% of the raccoon population carry the disease. Lepto is transmissible to humans and you can get it from your infected dog. Your dog can die from the disease or it can cause permanent kidney disease in dogs and humans. For those reasons it is important to vaccinate. In fact most veterinarians stop right there when describing lepto in order to convince you how necessary it is for your dog to receive the vaccine. It can be a scary disease.

So why would I be on the fence about such a horrific disease? Well, Lepto is a bacteria (spirochete) so the vaccine is not as long lasting as vaccine that protect against viruses, and it has to be given every year. In the past, the vaccine produced some significant side effects, the vaccine is cleaner now which has reduced some of the side effects, but it seems that some dogs are still experiencing them. Lepto has numerous strains more than 20, the vaccine protects only against 4 (the most common ones), so even if your dog is vaccinated it still can contract lepto, become sick and possibly transmit it to you or your children. 

So if you have a healthy dog and you have wildlife in your backyard or you have a dog that does spend time out in the woods, ponds, or areas that are known to have a lot of wildlife then the Lepto vaccination would be appropriate. However, if your dog has allergies or other immune system issues then you need to consider that giving an annual vaccine is not the best for the health of your dog. Also one thing to know is that lepto is not a death sentence. It is a bacterial infection and if caught early can be treated successfully with no long term effects. It has to be caught, tested for, and treated. There in lies the problem. Many owners are slow to bring the dog to the vet and many vets do not think of lepto first when the dog comes in lethargic with signs of a urinary tract infection, because it usually isn’t. Most of the time symptoms like that  is a simple bacterial infection not a kidney destroying life threatening zoonotic (that means humans can catch it) disease. The main difference is usually lethargy, if the dog is acting sick and has a urinary tract infection it is important to test for Lepto especially in endemic areas.

If you have more questions then ask away in the comment section below.

Here are a couple of articles with other opinions – 

Vaccines for your horse are the last line of defense

February 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Excellent article with a great point that many horse owners believe their disease prevention program begins and ends with vaccinating. In my opinion many owners are over vaccinating and causing more problems than what they are trying to protect against.

Amplify’d from www.equidblog.com

In general, the horse industry is over-reliant on vaccines. Don’t get me wrong, vaccines are useful and are an important aspect of an infectious disease control program. However, they are just one tool and they should not be the first line of defense. Rather, I think we need to change our mindset and consider vaccines as a last line of defense.

When I think about disease control, I think about three main areas:

1) Decreasing exposure
2) Decreasing susceptibility
3) Increasing resistance

Read more at www.equidblog.com


Allergies and Vaccines

November 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

dogscratch Is this a description of your dog?

She has been biting her sides, paws, tail, anything she can get her mouth to and creating red, bald spots, some to the point of bleeding. These are along the sides of her body and on her tail. The last time she had all of her shots she got so sick she threw up blood and bile.

This was part of an email I received from a family member that does not live in the same state that I do and obviously she sees a different veterinarian. She is “due” for her yearly vaccinations. Nevermind my problem with receiving annual vaccinations, my first question was what has her vet done about this problem, before receiving the yearlys? The answer: “My vet said to just give her a benadryl and she can get her shots. She’ll be fine.”

Trying to control my anger and not to really be harsh on her current veterinarian I said WHAT THE H* (see I didn’t use the F-bomb) Why would a vet give vaccines to an obviously sick dog?

Clue number one that the dog is not healthy – it is scratching so much that it is self-mutilating itself. I don’t see too many healthy dogs scratching themselves till they bleed.

Clue number two – the last time the dog received its vaccines it vomitted blood for a couple days.

hmmm – maybe some diagnostics would be in order prior to vaccinating this dog.

Now of course I am not there to see the dog and I am only getting this info from email and a phone call, but I am fairly confident from the history I took and the long term symptoms, this poor dog has has allergies and right now possibly a staph infection (need some diagnostics to determine that one). Proper protocol is to not vaccinate unless the dog is healthy and from my perspective this dog’s immune system is not healthy and has a chronic condition which will need to be managed.

Ignoring all the other things I do for a dog with allergies such as diet changes, the one thing I for sure do is limit how many vaccines the dog receives. Now why would I do that if I just said the dog’s immune system is not well, shouldn’t it get all the vaccines to help protect it?

The problem is that the dog’s immune system is in overdrive it is hyperstimulated. It is reacting to something in the environment – food, grass, pollen, dust, mold, detergents, fabrics, trees, flowers, etc, etc, something. Well the worst thing that we can do is stimulate the immune system even more. How about vaccines? Well what is the purpose of a vaccine? It is to STIMULATE the immune system. In fact, the vaccine manufacturers have designed vaccines to stimulate the immune system as much as they can with having as few reactions as they can in HEALTHY dogs. Well guess what? An allergic dog does not have a healthy immune system and if you have a dog with allergies you usually can predict that within a month of receiving the “yearly” vaccines you have to bring your dog in for itchy skin, ear infections or even diarrhea.

I had one client that I told that information to and they were so stunned that they went back into their dogs health records and they did pinpoint that within 3 weeks of receiving vaccines every year their dog had to come in for a corticosteroid shot to help relieve the skin problems and itching. Since they came in the same time every year they just assumed it was from something in the environment. This past year after not receiving the vaccines they also did not have to come in for a anti-itch shot either.

I have made posts in the past about the new vaccine protocols and how dogs should be titer tested or receive vaccines every 3 years and definitely not annually; however further consideration must be taken for dogs with immune system problems like dogs with allergies. It may be best for those dogs to skip vaccines all together and if they must receive them then give them only those that are absolutely necessary. It does not make sense to stimulate the immune system when it is already overstimulated.

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