Leptopirosis: Frequently asked questions

Q: Should I recommend canine leptospirosis vaccination to my clients?

A: For outdoor dogs with direct contact with riparian environments, particularly in northern Arizona do not need to be vaccinated for leptospirosis, such as dogs living in the Sonoran desert areas for Arizona, with no contact with riparian areas.  While not considered a core vaccine for most dogs, the following factors should be considered when making recommendations for vaccination on an individual patient basis: exposure risk in Arizona as well as when traveling to endemic areas fo the U.S., level of protection from the vaccine, and risk for reaction to the vaccine. 

Q: Are canine leptospirosis vaccines likely to cause adverse vaccine reactions?  

A: There is no evidence that vaccines against leptospirosis are more likely to cause adverse reactions than any other routine canine vaccine.

Q: Do the serovars in the four-way vaccine protect against the serovars that are in Arizona?

A: Many leptospira serovars cross-react with each other in the serological test, so we are not certain which serovars are important in the recent canine infections in Arizona.  In the context of multiple reported clinical cases, and because of the potential zoonotic risk associated with leptospirosis, for all dogs that go outdoors and have frequent contact with riparian areas, vaccines against leptospirosis should be considered.  Please keep in mind that titers greater than 1:800 are significant.

Q: How do people get leptospirosis?

A: Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.  Many different kinds of animals carry the bacterium; they may become sick but sometimes have no symptoms.  Humans become infected through contact with water, food or soil containing urine form these infected animals.  This may happen by swallowing contaminated  food or water, or through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin.

Q: How is it treated?

A: Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycyline or penicillin, which should be given early in the course of the disease.

Q: Can leptospirosis be prevented?

A: The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated wih animal urine.

Q: Should I report confirmed cases?

A: Yes.  Call the Arizona Department of Health Services at (602) 364-4562.


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