Check with your vet before giving dog leptospirosis vaccination
If I take my dog hiking, is it necessary for him to be vaccinated to prevent leptospirosis?
Answer: That is a personal decision best made with your veterinarian. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccination. But it is important to note that a vaccination is not a total safeguard. It doesn't protect from all strains and doesn't last for even a year.
Leptospiriosis is a dangerous bacterial infection transmitted from contact with other infected animals, mud or freshwater bodies such as rivers or waterfalls. It can be transmitted through a cut or ingested. The disease can be serious for both humans and animals. In people, symptoms are often like the flu but can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lung and heart.
Many of Hawaii's hiking trails post warnings about the spiral-shaped bacteria, which originates in infected animal urine that leaches into the soil or is carried to rivers, lakes, ponds and streams through rain.
Prevention includes ensuring your dog has no open wounds, hiking when paths are dry and simply abiding by Hawaii's leash law. Keeping your dog on a leash will keep him out of ponds and other places of questionable sanitation.
Q: What should I do if he contracts it?
A: Common signs in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, stiffness or severe muscle pain. Generally, younger animals are more seriously affected than older ones. But sometimes pets show no symptoms.
If you suspect your dog has come into contact with the bacteria, contact your veterinarian immediately. Tests can be performed to detect the bacteria's presence. It is treatable with antibiotics. If an animal is treated early, recovery can be more rapid and any organ damage less severe. Other treatment methods, such as dialysis and hydration therapy, might be required.
The time between exposure to the bacteria and development of the disease is usually five to 14 days but can be as short as a few days or as long as 30 days or more.
For more about the disease and your pet, visit www.cdc.gov.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.