Since the COVID pandemic, most people have heard the term “zoonotic,” referring to diseases that jump from animals to humans. But did you know that the most common zoonotic disease in the world is one that you can get from your furry best friend, your dog? The good news is, there’s a vaccine that can safeguard your dog and protect your entire family from this potentially life-threatening disease.

Understanding Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis, the villain of this story, is a bacterial infection spread through contaminated urine, primarily by wildlife. Shockingly, 20-40% of wildlife out there are active carriers of this disease, making it a hidden threat to our pets and us.

Symptoms and Diagnosis:
If your dog falls victim to acute leptospirosis, you might notice symptoms like fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. A trip to the veterinarian often reveals elevated liver and kidney values. However, it takes further testing to confirm if these changes are due to a leptospirosis infection. During this uncertain period, dogs must be hospitalized and undergo aggressive treatment with fluid therapy and antibiotics. All of this is done while the veterinary team takes strict precautions to avoid spreading the disease to their staff.


Dogs with Leptospirosis are typically hospitalized for 3-5 days in quarantine to limit the risk of disease spread to the humans caring for them.
The Long-Term Consequence:
Leptospirosis is treatable, but it can leave a mark on your dog’s kidneys, potentially shortening their life expectancy. Early detection and treatment are vital in ensuring your pet’s well-being.

The Silent Threat:
In some cases, the initial infection might go unnoticed, with no obvious symptoms. But months down the line, the disease might rear its ugly head in the form of uveitis, an ocular manifestation that, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.

A Hidden Danger for Humans:
What’s more, human physicians believe that Leptospirosis might be underdiagnosed, largely because many people are unfamiliar with the disease. Those with greater exposure to animals, including dogs, rats, raccoons, squirrels, and skunks, are at a higher risk. Additionally, warmer temperatures and rainy weather can contribute to outbreaks.

A Ray of Hope: The Leptospirosis Vaccine
The good news is that there’s a shield against this hidden danger – the leptospirosis vaccine. In the past, veterinarians primarily recommended it for large breed “ranch dogs” spending time in rural areas. But today, we know that urban and suburban dogs are also at risk due to their constant exposure to the urine left behind by wildlife. 


Xerxes was diagnosed by veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Yu-Speight at Veterinary Eye Center with uveitis (inflammation within the eye) in his left eye due to a chronic case of Leptospirosis. He’s currently on antibiotic and anti-inflammatory therapy.

Safety and Recommendations:
The vaccine has come a long way in the last three decades, now boasting improved safety. Adverse reactions are rare, occurring in fewer than 53 out of every 10,000 doses administered, and they are typically mild and self-limiting, including symptoms like soreness, swelling, or fever. Serious anaphylactic reactions are no more likely with the leptospirosis vaccine than with any other vaccine. For puppies, it’s advisable to begin the vaccine at 12 weeks of age and older. The initial vaccine requires a booster after three weeks, with subsequent annual administrations.

Preventing the Spread:
Published guidelines for canine vaccinations now recommend that nearly all dogs in North America be vaccinated against leptospirosis. The reasons are clear: its geographic incidence has been spreading, the disease is life-threatening, and it can be transmitted to humans.

Protection against Leptospirosis is important for both pets and for public health

Taking Action at Agave Veterinary Care:
In the last six months, we’ve already witnessed several leptospirosis cases in our patients. At Agave Veterinary Care, we consider leptospirosis a “core” vaccine for all dogs healthy enough to be vaccinated. The best part? This crucial vaccination is affordable, typically costing less than $30 per shot. It could potentially save pet owners thousands of dollars in hospitalization costs and, most importantly, save a life. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Protect your furry friend and your family from the hidden threat of leptospirosis with a simple, safe, and affordable vaccine.




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Dr. Sarah Miller is a small animal and exotic companion animal veterinarian at Agave Veterinary Care and Exotic Animal Hospital in Leander, TX just outside of Austin. She is dedicated to compassionate pet care, exceptional customer service and communication, advocating for independently-owned veterinary practices and their teams, ongoing continuing education, and exceptional medicine.