Dr. Risser's Column: July 2007

Dr. Risser's Column: July 2007

Geist area homeowners have grown accustomed to the presence of “adorable” wildlife that calls our wooded and ravine terrain their home as well. From the bunnies and deer that find my perennials irresistible to the raccoons that have affection for the garbage cans, I join my neighbors in dealing with issues stemming from co-existence with wild animals. As a veterinarian, I have long dealt with interactions between pets and wildlife, often including fights involving some combination of dogs, coyotes, cats, and possums (the last of which are surprisingly nasty creatures). But now we have another issue that is present locally. A disease called “leptospirosis” has re-emerged. This bacterial disease, which can cause fatal kidney and liver failure in dogs, was relatively common years ago, but then largely disappeared from Indiana. In the past year in particular, I have personally diagnosed it in dogs in the area. It is spread through contact with urine from infected animals, most often wildlife like raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels, and deer. The contaminated urine, though often found in puddles or other standing water, can also penetrate the soil, where Leptospira bacteria can survive for several months. Humans can also contract the disease.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine available for dogs to prevent leptospirosis. Most veterinarians offer it as an option for their patients. Because there are several strains, or “serovars,” of Leptospira, of which two are especially prevalent in Indiana, it is important to be sure the vaccine contains the appropriate serovars.

It is also worth noting that not every dog is at risk for contracting leptospirosis. As with decisions about any vaccination, your veterinarian will help you decide the appropriateness of giving the vaccine to your dog and discuss any possible risks associated with it.

Since I live in the Geist area and, like most of you, have encroached on the turf of a bevy of wild critters, I have a fair bit of concern about diseases that can spread between them and my pets. So my brave warrior dogs, who have just cornered a possum on the deck (and who is himself playing dead, of course), will be getting their Leptospirosis booster right on schedule again this year.