from the berner-l


Leptospirosis is a disease that is not caused by a virus, unlike most of our problems. It is caused by a type of bacteria. There are many different strains, only a few of which actually cause disease. Unfortunately, all my vet books are in storage, so this is coming from memory, and may be sketchy on some details. There are 5 strains that are the main causes of disease. (I'm not even going to attempt to recall what the different strains are called. ) Most vaccines only have 2 of those strains, and the strains are NOT cross-protective - which means even if you have immunity to one, that immunity will not protect you against a different strain. The new Fort Dodge lepto vaccine is the only one I know of that protects against 4 of those 5 pathogenic strains - the 5th I believe is really only seen somewhere overseas, like Asia or something.

Now the older lepto vaccines were definitely prone to causing vaccine reactions. That was our biggest cause of reactions. At the time we were using it, we had not seen or heard of a lepto case in the area in years, so I decided we would just drop that from our vaccine protocol. Lo and behold, our reaction incidence dropped. Since then, we have actually had about a half dozen cases seen in at the specialty practice about an hour away. Not only can leptospirosis be very serious in dogs (several of the dogs infected wound up with permanent liver or kidney damage, and at least 1 died), but it is also zoonotic, meaning that people can get it too. At least one technician involved with treating these cases became ill, and quite a few of the other staff had to be tested or treated. Lepto affects the kidneys and/or liver, primarily. It is passed through contaminated urine. Contaminated urine that is either swallowed (know that sounds gross, but I'm thinking of our dogs drinking from puddles) or absorbed into the body thorugh mucus membranes or an open cut or wound. Since a lot of us would wipe up where our dogs have peed without wearing gloves and not think twice about it, this is a potential source of infection.

Since lepto is serious, can be passed to humans, and had been definitively diagnosed nearby, we decided to again begin vaccinating for it. Fortunately, we have a new vaccine (the one I mentioned before - made by Fort Dodge) that does cover the strains usually seen in the US. In addition, the Fort Dodge rep told me that they've done something different with the new vaccine so that they are seeing fewer reactions. Now, I don't know about all that, but I can say that I have not seen ANY reactions since we switched just under a year ago - and while I'm not doing a lot in my private practice, we do vaccinate a LOT of dogs at the shelter, none of whom have had a problem.

One thing we do that probably helps that is that we do not give very young or very little puppies the lepto portion of the vaccine. Puppies must be at least 10 weeks before we will include lepto, and small breed dogs more like 14 weeks. We do not give it separately, but that does not seem to have been an issue for us. Anyway, I would advise checking to see what brand of vaccine your vet is using. If it is not the Fort Dodge lepto, I would be much less inclined to use it. (And I don't have any stock in Ft. Dodge, just like their vaccines. <G>) Then check around to see if lepto is being seen in the area. You can check with your local health department for human cases, and either the state vet or a nearby specialty vet practice to see if any animal cases have been seen. If they are not seeing it, and you are not traveling out of the area with your dog, I would probably not give it - but be aware that the dog is not protected against it. On the other hand, if there have been cases, or if you travel, then I would give it, provided it's the Fort Dodge version. Both of my dogs are now vaccinated against it. Plus, I have vaccinated at least a dozen berners with the Fort Dodge vaccine that includes lepto, including several puppies, none of which had any adverse reactions to it.

I hope this helps you. If you have further questions, feel free to post me.


Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2003 15:50:50 -0600 To: J Evans <> From: T Thompson <> Subject: Re: Debating about Lepto Vax - long HI Jill I couldn't justify giving the vaccine again and again and again. If it was like the parvo and distemper vaccines that can impart lifetime immunity with just one shot, then I might give it. But since my dead dog had been vaccinated for it over a dozen times, I know that it's a crappy vaccine. In the end, giving it once per year seemed silly since I knew the dog could be at risk again in a few weeks or months.

And, I really do think Berners need special vaccination programs - e.g. less is more. Too many of them have their immune systems running amok after a booster shot that they probably don't really need. Now I give two puppy shots of mono-valent parvo and mono-valent distemper spread out over a 12 week period. No other vaccines except for rabies as required by law. We can do without the other stuff.

Good luck with Indie and Gabby


From: "Barb Gasper" <> To: "J Evans" <> Subject: Re: Debating about Lepto Vax - long Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 08:39:20 -0400 X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1158 We've always given the combo shot to all our dogs UNTIL Cooper came to us as a pup. He received his innoculations containing LEPTO and had a severe reaction ... high fever, bloodshot eyes, extreme lethargy. Fortunately I was watching for reaction and live close to our vet, so ... back in the car and to the vet for a steroid injection (Benadryl-like). Now, when we take him for his shots we have them leave the LEPTO out. This was the first dog out of five that has had a reaction to normal innoculations. We're about to acquire a new pup and will most likely not include LEPTO in her innoculations.

Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 11:23:36 -0400 From: Rose Tierney <> Subject: RE: Debating about Lepto Vax - long To: J Evans <> Cc: Bernese Mountain Dog Mailing List <> Hi Jill,

In our area two years ago there were fourteen incidences of lepto and the one thing in common with these dogs were two frequently used off leash parks in the Ottawa area, Conroy Pit and Bruce Pit. I do not use either of

these facilities but a retired brood bitch of mine was frequenting Conroy Pit with her caretaker and we elected to vaccinate her. I split her vaccines because she had her spleen removed following torsion some years ago. She had no side effects at all. My other dogs are not vaccinated for lepto (never used the old one either) and when they are walked off property they are always on leash. We have incidence of raccoon rabies in our area and coupled with risks of giardia if they were to drink brackish water we elect to keep our dogs leashed. Fortunately I have a very large fenced area at home for their free exercise. In recent times there has not been an

incident of lepto in my area but I would reassess the risk accordingly if there were more outbreaks. I also do not leave water buckets out overnight when the dogs are in the house. If one is close to barns etc where rats and mice frequent again I would assess the risk factor.

I give combo shots now every three years and bordetella annually and rabies every three years at a time different from the combo. Puppies have their course and booster at one year then go on the three year regimen. My older dogs I try to calculate for their last three years and I never knowingly vaccinate a dog that is unwell or showing stress symptoms. Older dogs are subjected to a full blood panel and urinalysis commencing age five years and thereafter annually. Those values help me determine my vaccination protocols. When I have vaccinations done the dogs are rested and not overexercised for a couple of days following. Just part of my attempts to minimise stress overall in their lives:-))

Rose T.

From: "Alan & Susan Kowitz" <> To: <> Subject: Re: Lepto Vaccination Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 10:09:11 -0700

Hi Jill,

These are hard questions, aren't they? When Mercedes was a new little puppy we almost lost her after her 1st multi-vaccination booster. She puffed up like a pin cushion, couldn't breathe, and was in great distress. Consensus (breeders, vet, etc.) at the time was that it was the Lepto portion of the vaccine that she reacted to. She later had 3 bouts with ruptured cruciate ligaments and even later was diagnosed with hypothyroidism for which she is on medication.

Lo and behold I dig around for information and find that links have been made between vaccinosis and not only autoimmune problems, but also cruciate ligament ruptures and hypothyroidism. How can that be proved? I have absolutely no idea. Is it a valid hypothesis? No idea there either. I'm just not savvy enough on the research yet. However, the memory of that little puppy in my lap gasping for her every breath while the vet was out on a ranch call somewhere still haunts me.

We still vaccinate for rabies every three years because it is our state law, because our dogs are around lots of kids, and because rabies is such a horrible disease. If either of my Berners begin to exhibit chronic autoimmune symptoms we will stop vaccinating for rabies, switch to titers, and adjust their contact with humans ccordingly. We have titers drawn annually for parvo and distemper and that's it.

We live on WA State's Olympic Peninsula which is a fairly isolated biosystem and I've checked our state's health department website as well as that of the Centers for Disease Control for statistics on epidemiology of various diseases around here. That was a big part of how we made our plan. I hope you'll get information that will help you with your individual circumstances.

Lots of vagueness in this post, I'm afraid, but that's where we're at.

Susan Kowitz, Mercedes, and Bentley Sequim, WA

From: "Andrea Brin" <> To: "J Evans" <> Subject: RE: Debating about Lepto Vax - long Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 13:17:02 -0400 no nj. where are you located??

-----Original Message----- From: J Evans [] Andrea,

Thanks for your input. Is your breeder also from PA? Jill with Indie and Gabby

At 08:12 AM 7/16/2003 -0400, you wrote: >my berners have never been vacinated for lepto. my breeder does not >recommend it. it sounds like you have answered your own question. >andrea, woofit and chi >shavertown, pa

Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 10:43:52 -0700 (PDT) From: Jennifer Martyn <> Subject: Re: Debating about Lepto Vax - long To: Hi Jill ... I had one year old Porter vaccinatedagainst lepto in May due to the fact we live in a rural area with a pond and a creek inhabited by the lepto-carrying beaver. After receiving the first booster (lepto only - his annual vacc's aren't due til August) he had an allergic reaction. Hot, swollen gums, ears, skin etc. He was chewing at his feet until they were bleeding. It took 3+ weeks to get over it (10 days on prednisone)... now, when taking Porter & his GSD brother Kief (8 months) for runs thru the fields (by the creek and pond) we leash them until we've passed the creek and always carry fresh water for them and a collapsible bowl. The vet at the company that manufactures the vaccine stated Porter's reaction very common in Berners and believes that

Porter may have already been exposed to lepto and was immune ... All is well now, and the drug manufacturer is refunding all of our money including the cost of the vaccine and all subsequent vet visits and treatments. This is just my experience with the vaccine and although Porter's reaction is not classified as severe, in my books anything that causes that much distress to my dog is severe.

After discussions with my vet we have decided that my dogs will receive annual vaccines (distemper, parvo, etc.) and receives a rabies vaccine bi-annually. Just my experience ...