What you should know about leptospirosis
October 31, 2021
If some bad actors devised a bacterial infection to target ducks, it would make it thrive in swampy and muddy areas. He also reportedly indicated that it was most prevalent in the fall. Finally, the bacteria are said to be the most dangerous for any dog that bathes or drinks a sip of infected water.
Enter leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that ticks all of these boxes and more. The symptoms of lepto vary so widely that it is an easy candidate for misdiagnosis. Or just as serious, a delayed trip to the vet clinic on the grounds that things don’t seem too bad and will likely clear up on their own. Fever, sore or stiff muscles, general weakness, vomiting, cough, runny nose, diarrhea, and even depression are just a few of the symptoms of lepto. Full-fledged infections can progress to kidney disease (affecting the kidneys), bleeding disease, or jaundice that attacks the liver. In other words, you don’t want your retriever to get leptospirosis.
The problem is that disease prevention is not easy.
Leptospirosis vaccination dilemma
With any vaccine these days, you can do a quick Google search and find horror stories mixed with educated, uneducated opinions. But Dr Google isn’t the best way to get quality information tailored to individual situations, so you should ask your vet if your duck dog is a good candidate. This is what I did with my young Labrador Retriever, and he explained to me in detail how effective it was and what the potential side effects were.
It turns out that the lepto vaccine does not guarantee immunity. Far from there. For a long time the best we had was an option that prevented infection with a few leptospirosis serovars (strains), but currently there is an option that can handle four of the most common serovars. It is the vaccine most widely recommended by experts in veterinary medicine.
Side effects of the vaccine, however, can range from mild reactions that result in a few days of lethargy and / or loss of appetite, to a more serious reaction not unlike anaphylactic shock. The latter is rare in the types of dog breeds most likely to sit next to you in a duck blind, thankfully.
Essentially, you have nasty strains of bacteria that potentially live in the same places you will be working your retriever on double blinds throughout the fall, provided the ducks are cooperative. Knowing this, it is best to have a table discussion with your vet.
Healthcare professionals, even those who only treat four-legged patients, have mastered the art of extracting relevant information, even when it is not readily available. They do it because they care about their patients, and the more they know, the easier it is.
So make it easy for them. Have a real, honest chat about the environments and places your retriever hunts, trains, or might just take a quick dip while you’re on a hike in the not-so-serious nature. Leptospirosis needs a specific type of environment to really take hold, and your dog might not come close to it.
For example, if you live in the west in a relatively dry environment, the chances of exposure to lepto may be low. But what if you take a weeklong trip every year to the flooded woods of Arkansas to scratch your duck itch? This is information worth injecting into the conversation, because while a trip like this may not represent a large part of your dog’s year, it is a potential exhibition opportunity. This is also an ideal situation for a misdiagnosis, as in some areas lepto will be low on the list of likely culprits for your dog’s illness.
It is up to us to decide the risk / reward of a vaccination for each of our dogs, and the best way to make the right choice is to consult a true expert in the field. If you choose to switch, make sure you are aware of the symptoms of lepto and how your dog might be exposed to it. Treatment will involve at least a series of antibiotics, which work best if started early. This often helps alleviate some of the discomfort, but rarely prevents a trip to the emergency clinic or veterinarian for long-term care, as leptospirosis is no joke when it enters. the system of a duck dog.