When you get a puppy, your first veterinary visit is likely to include core vaccinations. These vaccinations include canine distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis; rabies is usually added when your puppy is a little older. In addition to these core vaccines, non-core vaccines are available and provide protections against a variety of conditions including leptospirosis and Lyme disease. Whether your dog should have these vaccines depends on his risk factors.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by Leptospira spirochetes, which penetrates the skin. This bacterium spreads by contact with the urine of an infected animal; dogs often are exposed to the virus when swimming in a body of water. This often fatal disease causes symptoms such as sudden fever, sore muscles, weakness, lack of appetite, increased thirst and urination, rapid dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea, yellow skin and eyes, difficulty breathing and a runny nose. While treatable by antibiotics, many dogs suffer from acute kidney or liver failure before antibiotics have a chance to work. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic condition, meaning it can spread to human companions, making the vaccination even more important in areas of high exposure risk.
The Leptospira bacterins vaccine is available in two forms. The older vaccine is the two-serovar bacterin that protects against two common strains. Newer vaccines protect against four common strains. In areas with warm, tropical climate or confirmed cases of leptospirosis, vaccination is recommended. However, the vaccination does not come without risk. Leptospira bacterin, according to WebMD, is responsible for 70 percent of post-vaccination anaphylactic shock reactions, especially in toy breeds. Talk to your veterinarian about the benefits and risks for your area and dog.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by deer ticks. When a tick bites your dog, the bacteria can transfer into your dog’s system. Symptoms of Lyme disease include severe pain, swollen joints, weakness, lameness, fever and lethargy. In rare cases, aggression, kidney failure and neurological changes occur. Treatment for Lyme disease involves a long course of antibiotics.
When you're deciding whether to vaccinate against the Lyme disease, the most important consideration is whether you and your dog live in or travel to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent. While the Lyme vaccine does not provide complete protection, it is recommended in areas of high occurrence. In addition to vaccinations, regular tick-control applications and body checks to remove ticks are essential. Three different Lyme disease vaccines are available. The Fort Dodge vaccine uses dead Lyme bacteria to stimulate antibody development. Merial’s vaccine creates specialized antibiodies that prevent the transfer of bacteria into your dog’s blood stream. The Invervet-Schering-Plough’s vaccine does the same but also kills the bacteria.
- ASPCA: Vaccinations
- Lantana-Atlantis Animal Hospital: AVMA Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs
- PetMD: Bacterial Infection (Leptospirosis) in Dogs
- PetMD: Canine Vaccination Series: Part 3
- WebMD: Noncore Dog Vaccinations
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: An Overview of Lyme Disease in Dogs
- VetInfo: Canine Lyme Disease Vaccine Side Effects
- PetMD: Canine Vaccination Series: Part 6
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images