Pet Disease on the rise; New Hope Animal Hospital Veterinarians Encourage Vaccination

DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 08, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- North Carolina veterinarians are seeing an increase in the number of cases of a potentially life-threatening disease of dogs, leading to a greater push for vaccination and awareness.

“Leptospirosis is a growing disease concern in this area, and we’ve seen more cases this year than ever before,” said Dr. Soren Windram of New Hope Animal Hospital in Durham. “It poses a danger not only to our pets, but for people, too.”

“Lepto” is a bacterium spread by wildlife and domesticated animals that can sicken dogs and be spread to humans through contact with their bodily fluids. Cats can also carry the disease but are rarely clinically affected. Natural hosts for the disease include opossums, mice, rats, skunks, deer, and other mammals; domestic cows, pigs, and horses may also spread the bacterium.

Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of appetite, fever, and weakness or lethargy. If a Durham pet owner notices any of these symptoms in their pet, they should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. The bacterium may attack the kidneys or liver, causing acute failure of either or both organs, and can cause long-term organ damage or death if left untreated. Infected dogs may continue to shed the bacterium in their urine and saliva for up to three months.

“Lepto is spread in urine and body tissues, and can survive outside the host in a moist environment or in free-standing water for months,” Dr. Windram said.  “A dog who occasionally drinks from a creek or eats part of a rodent carcass is at increased risk, and probably should be vaccinated.”

Although it does not provide complete immunity, a canine vaccine that protects against the most common strains of leptospirosis is widely available, but isn’t always recommended as part of the “core” vaccines that pet dogs receive.  In fact, non-veterinary animal professionals sometimes warn against vaccination for lepto, as it is a vaccine that has been implicated in allergic vaccine reactions.  If a pet has reacted to a vaccine in the past, be sure to discuss the best prevention strategy with a Durham and Chapel Hill veterinarian. 

“Vaccine reactions are rare, and are generally inexpensive to treat,” said Dr. Windram. “Lepto is often fatal if left untreated, and can strike you and your pet. One of our recent cases was hospitalized at the North Carolina State University veterinary school for a week, and required continued therapy at home for many weeks afterward.”  A course of antibiotics for each of his human family members and more than $9,000 later, that lucky pup is now happily back home.

Durham and Chapel Hill pet owners can visit New Hope Animal Hospital online at They are open six days a week and residents may call them with their questions about the lepto vaccine.


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