Preventing Lyme and Leptospirosis through vaccination

With Minnesota’s increasing seasonal warmth and humidity, your dog has an increased risk of exposure to dangerous bacteria such as those that cause Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis.  Starting vaccination early in your pet’s life will help keep them and your family safe.

Lyme Disease

What is Lyme Disease? Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Borrelia burgdorferi.  It is transmitted to people and dogs through Deer tick bites.  The process of transmission from the tick to you or your pet takes a minimum of 24 hours, which means if the tick can be removed within 24 hours, Lyme Disease transmission is very unlikely.  While vigilance and good quality tick preventatives (such as Nexgard) are the mainstays of preventing Lyme Disease, certain environments and times of the year create an overwhelming presence of Deer ticks, which despite our best efforts, can still lead to the development of Lyme Disease.  

What does Lyme Disease do to dogs?  Weeks after exposure to Lyme Disease, dogs typically will develop a high fever, lethargy, poor appetite, swollen lymph nodes and profoundly painful joints.  Some dogs may also develop vomiting and diarrhea.  Severe cases can result in long term kidney damage.

Which dogs are at greatest risk? Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors where ticks are prevalent; hiking, camping, hunting and spending time up north. Dogs with this sort of lifestyle are considered high risk for Lyme disease and should be vaccinated.


What is Leptospirosis? Leptospirosis is a bacterial spirochete infection caused by Leptospira interrogans. This spirochete can be found in rural and urban areas due to the presence of rodents, raccoons and other wildlife.  It is spread through the urine of infected animals which can get into water and soil and survive there for weeks to months. Bacteria can enter the body through skin wounds and mucous membranes (ie drinking contaminated water). 

What does Leptospirosis do to dogs? The symptoms can be similar to Lyme Disease; fever, severe pain, weakness, poor appetite and gastrointestinal signs.  Infected dogs are at high risk of developing kidney and/or liver failure.

Which dogs are at greatest risk? It was previously believed that mainly dogs that spent a lot of time outdoors and swimming were at greatest risk.  But with urban sprawl, and increased testing frequency, we are discovering a significant prevalence in our cities, neighborhoods and dog parks as well. Therefore, most dogs in this area should be considered at-risk.  The degree of risk and need to vaccinate can be discussed with your veterinarian.

Leptospirosis is zoonotic. It is very important to know that Leptospirosis is contagious and can be passed to people from their pets. The CDC reports that about 33% of human Leptospirosis cases come from the urine contamination of infected dogs.  Due to this human health risk, Leptospirosis vaccination is recommended in most dogs.

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