What dog owners need to know about lepto

My dog Sam got very sick a few weeks ago. It came on quite suddenly. He was lethargic, had diarrhea and he was throwing up.

The diagnosis was kidney failure caused by lepto.That's short for leptospirosis, a nasty bacteria spread in Western Washington mainly by raccoons, mice and rats.

"They shed it in their urine, it gets into the soil or gets into water dishes or food dishes and that's where the dogs pick it up," explained Dr. Jim Evermann with WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. (Listen to Herb's interview with Dr. Evermann on KOMO Radio.)

Lepto bacteria can also be on the grass and in the water, so dogs who like to swim are especially vulnerable.

There is a leptospirosis vaccine, although my wife and I had never heard of it and our vet never reccomended Sam get it.

Dr. Evermann says the vaccine is safe and effective. He suggests talking to your vet about it.

"If they're an outside dog they should be vaccinated, especially if they like to go out hiking or hunting with their owners. People often think that their dog doesn't go outside very much, it's kind of a household dog, but even going in the back yard exposes it to leptospirosis because raccoons come into the yard," Dr. Evermann told me.

Sam is an indoor dog, and he got it. He goes in for his vaccinaion next week.

More Info: Leptospirosis in Dogs
CDC: Leptospirosis