Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease (which means it can be spread from animals to humans) that can cause serious illness in dogs, other animals and humans. Health Canada has stated that it is becoming more prevalent in Canada and as such, the number of cases in dogs in Canada has markedly increased in the past 10 years. Thankfully, transmission to humans is rare but there have been reported cases in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and British Columbia in which humans contracted the disease from dogs.

Canine Leptospirosis can affect dogs in both urban and suburban areas. Raccoons, skunks, rats and dogs can all act as reservoirs. Typically, infections in dogs occur in the fall (September to December) when the weather is both warm and wet.

Infection occurs from contact with urine of an infected animal – usually in wet ground or water. The bacteria enters the body through the dog’s eyes, nose, mouth or through a break in the skin caused by a cut or scratch. Once the bacteria has entered the body, it multiplies and spreads to other areas depending on the type – bladder, kidneys, lungs or liver.

I have been back from maternity leave for 8 months now, and since my return I have attended 4 separate continuing education sessions on Leptospirosis – this gives you an idea of the growing concern and importance of educating veterinarians. The last session I attended actually had a deputy for the minister of Agriculture attend the session. He briefly spoke at the end acknowledging the growing importance of this zoonotic disease.

Previously, Dr. Van Duin and I considered leptospirosis vaccination on a case by case basis. We would discuss with clients their dog’s lifestyle and decide whether the patient needed vaccination. Typically and stereotypically we were vaccinating the “big” large breed dogs – the dogs that hiked, went camping, went to off leash parks – the active individuals. We now know that the risks extend to pretty much the whole canine population, especially living here in Richmond – where contact with wildlife is common and exposure to damp, wet ground is inevitable. We now consider leptospirosis a core vaccine for our dog population with exceptions on an individual basis.

The good news is with annual vaccination, risks of leptospirosis decrease significantly. So much so that it is recommended in an outbreak situation that re-vaccination should occur as soon as possible for all dogs. Please call, email us or set up an appointment to discuss leptospirosis vaccination if your dog has not been vaccinated yet or if you have any questions or concerns for us. Our Richmond animal hospital is AAHA Accredited and ready to serve you and your pets needs.

Dr. Sarah Dumont DVM