Facts on the Leptosporosis Vaccine

Here at My Pet Nutritionist, we get asked about vaccines a lot. We have plenty of data and scientific, validated research on the core DHP vaccines, but then we have the supposed concern of Leptosporosis, so here is our presentation of the facts.‍

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection with around 250 serovars. It affects dogs, most mammals and marsupials and even humans. Leptospirosis can be found worldwide but is most prevalent in warm humid countries that experience heavy rain fall. The bacteria can be found in puddles, stagnant water and moist soil that has been infected by the urine of an infected animal. Leptospirosis is transmitted by drinking infected water, through open wounds and through mucus membranes like the eyes and nose.

Symptoms can range from mild, subclinical infection with little to no symptoms at all, to multi-organ failure and in some cases death. Signs of leptospirosis are fever, muscle tenderness, vomiting, diarrhoea and jaundice to liver and kidney failure. In 80-90% of cases, leptospirosis is treatable with doxycycline.

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{br} The leptospirosis vaccine is made by Nobivac MSD animal health, a subsidiary of Merck. There are two vaccines available, Nobivac Lepto 2 which covers two serovars and Nobivac Lepto 4, that covers four serovars. We must note that the L3 serovars is not found in the U.K., so one quarter of the vaccine is totally unnecessary.

Vaccinating dose not prevent your dog from getting leptospirosis, it is only meant to lessen the severity of the illness.

Interestingly a post vaccination survey done by Canine health concern, observed and analysed the history of over 3,800 dogs post vaccination, found that every single dog in the study with leptospirosis, contracted it within three months of the vaccination, which begs the question are we reducing the severity or actually making our dogs more susceptible to it!?

Findings here

In a 2007 study completed before the availability of the Lepto 4 vaccination, 1,241 healthy dogs, some of whom had been vaccinated and some had not, found that 24.9% of dogs had antibodies 1-6 different serovars. This shows these dogs had natural exposure to these serovars and had built some natural immunity to them.

Findings here

In cases of the vaccinated dogs, some showed antibodies up to 1,745 days after vaccination. Is this from the vaccination? If so, why are we annually vaccinating? If not, is this from natural exposure? If so, why is it necessary to vaccinate?

In 2013, Christopher Ball from Liverpool university wrote his thesis on leptospirosis. This was funded by MSD the manufacturer of Nobivac leptospirosis vaccine. A questionnaire was sent out to 472 vet clinics all around the U.K.. They were asked how many cases of leptospirosis had been seen in the last 12 month’s. 89 clinic’s returned the the questionnaire, the majority reported no cases at all in the last twelve months, only 13 of the practises reported a case within the last twelve months, of which only 3 had been confirmed by laboratory test. None of the practises in the study reported suspecting or confirming two or more cases of leptospirosis in the previous 12 months to the study. With these figures, we need to ask ourselves how prevalent leptospirosis is in the U.K.? And does it really warrant the risks associated with the vaccine?

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We may need to look to other means for evidence of adverse reactions, there has been a Facebook group set up called “Novibac Lepto 4 -our experiences” with 35,000 members and growing. Some of whom are professionals all sharing their experiences of this vaccine. There are some extremely harrowing and heartbreaking stories in the this Facebook group. The manufacturer’s of the vaccine and some professionals will say these stories are anecdotal, this may be so, but it reaches a point when ‘coincidence’ can’t be ignored when so many of the same stories are being shared.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) say that leptospirosis is not a core vaccine and in 2013 Christopher Day said in his thesis due to the perceived low rates of infection in the U.K., the leptospirosis vaccine is not considered a core vaccine, yet recently the BSAVA (British Small Animal Veterinary Association) made it a core vaccination. We would like to know what research and data this is based off.

Leptospirosis is a killed vaccine (not live) and therefore contains adjuvants such as mercury and aluminium hydroxide, to stimulate the immune response when the vaccine is administered. This may potentially make it more dangerous in terms of adverse immune events in some dogs.

Adverse reactions can be instant or within 7 days of administration. Symptoms can be anything from, sickness, diarrhoea, welts and swelling at the injection site, swollen glands, hives to anaphylactic shock, seizures, auto immune responses and even death.

Vaccinosis however, is a disease resulting from a vaccination. This can occur many weeks and even months after the vaccine has been administered, hence why it can be difficult to get a vet to acknowledge and report adverse reactions.

Leptospirosis is a zooatonic infection which means we can contract it from other animals. Lepto is known as weils disease in humans and we are often led to believe (from our vets) that it’s very important to vaccinate our dogs due to the risk of leptospirosis to ourselves and our families. However, on the NHS website it say ‘it’s very rare” to contract leptospirosis from our pets. When we take into consideration the low number of cases of leptospirosis, in Christopher Days study, and the fact the NHS have said its very rare to contract it off our pets, this would defiantly go against the consideration of this vaccination for our dogs.

Findings here

Health and safety executive .gov.uk say there is are around 50 cases of weils (Lepto) disease in the U.K. per year, out of a population of 65 million people. Some of those cases are brought back from abroad, its treated with antibiotics and there is no human leptospirosis vaccine routinely used in the U.K., despite people working down the drains, sewer systems and on farms. Leptospirosis for us and our dogs is a none reportable, as its not deemed serious enough.

Conclusion: no evidence of high numbers, 80/90% treatable with antibiotics, little to no risk for humans contracting this disease from their dog.

Everything in life is a risk, everything has pros and cons but before we make a decision on giving a vaccination (with potentially life threatening side effects), we must look at the evidence so we can make an informed decision. We hope the evidence presented here will help you make that decision.

‍If you are concerned about your pet’s health, please contact us and find out more about our services here.

MPN Team x

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