Leptospirosis – Deadly Bacteria in Wild Life Urine

When wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, coyotes, deer, and rodents urinate, they excrete bacteria in their urine – one of the bacteria found in their urine is called Leptospirosis. This bacteria is often times deadly to our beloved dogs. When dogs go to parks or on hikes and drink the random standing puddles of water, they get infected with this awful bacteria. Often times, the rain makes this more prevalent and helps spread this bacteria around – what looks like a typical puddle of rain water, may really have Leptospirosis in it.

Symptoms of infection include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Without treatment, dogs may suffer from kidney failure and pass away – time is of the essence and dogs need treatment as soon as possible.

Once a dog is infected, the dog may even spread the bacteria to other pets through their own urine and even humans too – yes, you read that right – YOU can get Leptospirosis (lepto) too!

Besides avoiding free standing water and puddles, the best way to protect your dog is to vaccinate them against the bacteria. You never know what that one random lick on a Saturday hike with your pup may lead to – we recommend every dog owner to be safe by vaccinating their pet, and not sorry.

If you suspect your pet may have Leptospirosis/Lepto, please call us 24/7: 925 937 5000

Importance of Vaccines

      Vaccinations are an important component of pet healthcare and also play a key role in the control of disease at the national and global level. Vaccines are designed to strengthen an animal’s immune system against a certain disease, to either prevent or minimize the effects of that infection, should the animal later be exposed. They consist of either modified or killed forms of the microorganism. Vaccine guidelines have been created for our pet population and generally consist of “Core” vaccines, which every animal should receive, and Non-Core” vaccines, which are given depending on life style. However, the most important component in vaccine management is consulting with your veterinarian so they can create a vaccination plan specifically tailored to your pet.

      You may have wondered why puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccinations. Young animals have naturally occurring immunity to disease, which they receive from their mothers during pregnancy and while nursing. This natural immunity begins to breakdown over the first few months of life, putting the puppy or kitten at risk for disease. For an animal to mount their own immune response, and for a vaccine to be effective, the naturally occurring immunity must be gone. We don’t know the exact point that any given animal will lose their natural immunity, and be ready to mount their own individual immune response, so a series of vaccines are given to ensure we don’t put a young animal at undue risk for disease, but also are able to impart long term immunity. For this same reason it is important not to exposure your puppies and kittens to animals with uncertain vaccination history, or environments where sick animals may have been, until their vaccine series is completed.

      There are two “Core” vaccinations given to dogs. The first is rabies, which is required by law due to its potential to spread to human beings. The second is DAP, which is a combo vaccine which protects dogs from some very serious viral diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. Several “Non-Core” vaccines for dogs exist which you and your veterinarian can decide upon based on your pets lifestyle and the diseases they may be at risk of contracting.

      “Core” vaccinations for cats include rabies, and the combo vaccine FVRCP, which primary is designed to cover cats for upper respiratory infections. One of the primary “Non-core” vaccines for cats is Feline Leukemia Virus, a life threatening disease which outdoor cats are at risk of contracting.

      Veterinarians would agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks. About 1 in every 200 animals will have an adverse vaccine reaction, but most reactions are very mild. Most vaccine reactions are limited to pain at the injection site, but they can also include facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and in rare causes anaphylaxis and shock. Some cats can also develop cancer at the site of injection years after their vaccination, but this condition is rare (about 1 in 10,000) and modern vaccines put cats at less risk.

      Although there are risks associated with vaccinations, they are an important tool available to your veterinarian to prevent serious and often life threatening disease in your pet. Vaccines are also largely responsible for controlling and even eradicating several of the world’s most serious infectious diseases, in both people and animals. By working with your veterinarian a vaccination plan can be made to minimize risk and keep your pet protected.

Trevor Miller, DVM

New Puppy or Kitten?

      It finally happened. Your children won the argument and you came home with a new puppy or kitten. Everything was peachy – then it all started to happen: the kitten decided to use your great-grandmother’s rug as a litter box and scratching post, or the puppy found your beloved vinyl records of Elvis or the Beatles and destroyed them with such efficiency, that an industrial shredder would be jealous. You’re now over your head with this young creature. Now what?

     Bringing a new puppy or kitten into the household is not as simple as walking down to the shelter, picking out the cutest animal, and then bringing it home. Time must be spent before ever bringing a new pet home. Most parents don’t have a baby without some sort of pre-planning and preparation, right? The same applies here.

     Research the breed that you are interested in getting. Some breeds are better suited to your family’s lifestyle than others. An owner who doesn’t like to walk or can’t exercise will not fit well with a dog who likes to run a lot. The same is true for certain breeds of cats: some cats require a lot of attention and talk a lot, and some owners might not like that.

     Make sure you have all your supplies beforehand. Crates, chew toys / scratching posts, water / food bowls, appropriate food for the age of the animal and grooming supplies. A leash, collar and ID tags are a must.

     Is your house set up properly? You need to find a place for the crate and sleeping areas. Designating a potty area should be done as soon as your puppy comes home. Kittens need to be introduced to their litter box right away. Put away items that you do not want destroyed.

     Routines work well with animals. Work with your puppy or kitten from the beginning to establish a routine for eating, playtime and exercise. Establishing good habits early on will save you trouble later on down the road.

     Your first visit to the vet can be overwhelming with the amount of information you will receive. The following is a list of typical topics:
          1.Vaccines and diseases
          2. Controlling parasites, both internal and external
          3. Nutrition
          4. Insurance
          5. Behavior – house training, biting, contact with children / other pets
          6. Problems commonly associated with certain breeds
          7. When to spay / neuter
          8. Dental care and grooming
          9. New puppy / kitten kits

     Vaccines are obviously an important topic at the beginning of any puppy or kitten’s life. While there are some risks involved with giving vaccines, the benefits far outweigh the risk. However, anytime an animal receives a vaccine, regardless if it’s the first time or the 10th time, some signs may occur, such as swelling, pain, a low grade fever, or lethargy. More serious reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, can also occur. In cats, a reaction called a vaccine associated sarcoma (a cancerous tumor) may also occur, but this is also infrequent.

     There are a number of required, or core vaccines given to puppies and kittens. Additionally, there are other vaccines that can be given, based on you and your pet’s lifestyle (close contact with wildlife, frequent boarding, for example).

The core vaccines and their schedule for dogs:
          1. DHPP – distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus
               a. These viruses can attack the liver, heart, respiratory tract, central nervous system and the intestinal tract
               b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
          2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
               a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, a booster at 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.

Lifestyle vaccines for dogs can include:
          1. Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease that is spread by contact with urine from infected wildlife. Can be spread to humans. Can cause liver and kidney disease.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then boosters at 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every year after that.
          2. Bordatella (kennel cough) – a bacterial disease that can cause respiratory illness, commonly caught at dog parks, grooming facilities or kennels.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every 6 – 12 months.
          3. Rattlesnake – helps decrease the severity of rattlesnake bites.
               a. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks. Boosters every year thereafter.

The core vaccines and their schedule for cats:
          1. FVRCP – feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus
               a. These viruses can attack the respiratory and intestinal tracts. They are spread in the air or by close contact with an infected individual.
               b. Initial vaccine at 8 weeks, then boosters at 12, 16, 1 year 4 months, and then every 3 years after that.
          2. Rabies – a virus that attacks the brain, spread by being bitten by an infected animal
               a. Initial vaccine at 16 weeks, and then every year thereafter.

Lifestyle vaccines for cats can include:
          1. FELV – feline leukemia virus
               a. This virus can cause immunosuppression (decreased ability to fight other infections) and death in cats of all ages. It is spread by contact with infected individuals.
               b. Initial vaccine at 12 weeks, then a booster at 16, and then every year thereafter.

     Getting a new puppy or kitten can be stressful, but don’t worry, you’ll get through it. It requires patience, discipline, and sometimes the ability to step back and calm down. Don’t worry, you’ll do great with a new member in the family!

Byron Bowers, DVM

Kennel Cough in Dogs

       Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease of dogs. The more scientific name for the disease is canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough is usually caused by a bacterium called Bordetella, but other bacteria and certain viruses can also play a role in the disease.
       Clinical signs of kennel cough include a hacking, honking cough that is usually not productive. Dogs generally continue to act normally (eating, drinking, active) but have a persistent cough that can last for several weeks. Dogs spread kennel cough to each other through the air with small particles being passed from one dog to the other. Usually, dogs catch kennel cough in crowded areas where lots of other dogs are present such as boarding kennels, grooming salons, or dog parks.
       Cases of kennel cough usually resolve on their own, but antibiotics and cough medications can help your dog recover more quickly. It may also be helpful to use a harness instead of a collar and leash because putting pressure on the trachea (windpipe) can make coughing worse. It’s best to see your veterinarian if your dog is showing signs of coughing because there are many other diseases that can cause a dog to cough, some of which are serious and require rapid medical care.
       Though kennel cough cannot be 100% prevented, there are vaccines available to help decrease the chance of your dog getting sick. The two most common types of vaccines are an injectable form (given under the skin) and an intranasal form (given in the nose). Talk with your veterinarian about which is best for your pet.

Kerry Thode, DVM

Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus is a virus that is found in all environments and all seasons (survives in the environment for more than 7 months) that affects dogs. People and cats are not infected by parvovirus (cats are affected by a similar virus known as distemper). Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated puppies (younger than 8 months old) and unvaccinated adult dogs are most susceptible to the devastating parvovirus infections. A puppy may get infected when his/her mouth comes in contact with the virus in feces, contaminated soil, or other materials that are infected with this virus, which commonly happens on a simple walk.

Most common exposure to parvovirus ocacurs in dog parks, grassy reas, and overcrowded housing situations. Once ingested, the incubation period (time between exposure and clinical signs) is 3-14 days. The factors that determine whether a puppy will get sick from their exposure to parvovirus can vary and may include: the amount of exposure to the virus, the number of vaccines, and the overall health at time of exposure (ex. stressed animals and those housed in crowded areas are more likely to become sick after exposure). Once infected, these animal shed (release) a HUGE amount of the virus in their feces, saliva and vomit, which other dogs may get sick from. Dogs that survive this infection can continue to shed (release) the virus for 2-3 weeks. Since the virus is built to be hardy, it is resistant to many household cleaning agents and can be difficult to eradicate (10% bleach is recommended for cleanup). Any dog can get parvovirus but some breeds are highly susceptible including Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and dachshund breeds.

Vaccination is the single most important preventative effort. Puppies should be vaccinated against parvovirus (with DHPP vaccine) starting at 8 weeks of age and should receive the DHPP vaccine every 3-4 weeks until they are 12 weeks of age to be considered vaccinated. Puppies that have not received the full vaccination series should not be allowed to go to dog parks, play on grass, and frequent areas where unvaccinated dogs may be present (including walks in the neighborhood). Puppy classes pose little risk to other participating puppies as long as they have had at least one vaccine, are healthy and are not showing clinical signs of parvovirus infection. Please be sure to check with the facility your puppy may be attending puppy classes at for more information on how they prevent the spread of parvo. If you suspect that your puppy has symptoms consistent with parvovirus or may have been exposed, you should bring him/her into Encina Veterinary Hospital for testing.

Parvovirus destroys the lining of the small intestine and depletes the body of white blood cells that are needed to fight infection. In very young puppies parvovirus can cause permanent damage to the muscles of the heart. The virus acts on the lining of the small intestine and causes it to be sloughed off, which allows blood and liquids to leave the body and bacteria from the gut to enter the body. For this reason the most common symptom of the parvovirus infection is bloody, foul smelling liquid diarrhea. Other clinical signs include lethargy/decreased activity, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Severely ill animals can develop severe dehydration, sepsis, shock and death. If animals are housed together they can develop these symptoms within a couple days of one another. Once symptoms occur these pets should be separated and presented to a veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment.

A quick fecal test can be performed at the veterinary clinic to confirm this infection. Bloodwork is necessary to determine the white blood cell count and overall health status. These test are very important as they help guide the overall treatment plan. Fecal sample may be sent out to the laboratory for analysis as young puppies can be concurrently infected with parasites such as worms and giardia, which should also be treated.

Treatment for parvovirus infection should be performed as soon as diagnosed and in a veterinary hospital such as Encina Veterinary Hospital. Treatment involves intravenous fluids for rehydration, antibiotics, pain medication, anti-emetic, and correction of electrolyte or blood sugar imbalances. While in the hospital, patients will also be monitored for low blood pressure and low and/or high temperatures.
Severely affected animals such as those in shock or septic will require longer and more involved treatments. Puppies and adult dogs that are treated for parvovirus in a veterinary hospital will be placed in an isolation ward as they are contagious to other unvaccinated dogs. Because parvovirus is such an aggressive virus and highly contagious, dogs who are positive for parvo are often isolated from non-infected dogs.

With the appropriate treatment led by a veterinarian, parvo can be beat and your dog can live a healthy life. However, it’s important to know that the response to treatment plays a huge role in the chances a dog has at beating parvo. Without appropriate treatment as soon as clinical signs are noted, the chances of survival decrease. In untreated animals, severe illness most often results in death.

If you feel your dog may have been exposed to the parvovirus and is now positive, please give us a call immediately: (925) 937-5000

Maryam O’Hara DVM