Is the Leptospirosis Vaccine Necessary for My Dog?

Last fall, one of our friend’s dogs – Jeffie – died from leptospirosis (lepto for short). He got it from the back yard and died suddenly.

Jeffie’s owner starting educating people about lepto and get the word out about the risk.

I wondered, “Does my dog need the lepto vaccine?”.

UPDATED: December 12, 2022

I got curious and asked my vet about the vaccination.

She shrugged it off and said dogs don’t really need it in Washington State (where we live) unless they hike.

Of course, in my head, I was like, “Don’t they know who we are??” Ha, ha.

I kindly informed her that’s definitely us and she said I should get the lepto vaccine for my Dachshunds Chester and Gretel then.

Dogs That Spend Time Outside Might Need a Leptosporosis Vaccine
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I mentioned it to our Facebook community and it turns out there can be leptospirosis vaccine reactions in Dachshunds.

Since Chester survived 14 years with no vaccine, I felt like I had some time to wait and research.

This is what I learned over the last year.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis – or Lepto for short – is a bacterial disease that results when microscopic bacteria (Leptospira interrogans to be specific) enter your dog’s bloodstream.

Lepto is carried in the urine of certain wild and domestic animals and can be found in the woods, rural areas, or in the City.

The disease is acquired when your dog is exposed to infected urine, typically through water sources or within moist soil.

Once inside the body, these tiny bacteria can reproduce in the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, eyes, and reproductive system.

This bacterium is a mean, lean, reproducing machine, and can make your dog seriously sick if not caught in the early stages.

The good news: there’s a good chance (not guaranteed, however) that you will see symptoms that can serve as a red flag that your pup needs veterinarian attention.

The bad news: they’re relatively non-specific, and it CAN be difficult to diagnose the disease.

Nonetheless, here’s a general list of symptoms to look for according to the CDC:

12 leptosporosis Symptoms to Watch For

What Are the Risks of the Leptospirosis Vaccine?

Leptospirosis is one of those diseases that isn’t super common and more often than not doesn’t result in death…but it could.

Dr. Pedro Diniz, a veterinarian and professor at Western University of Health Sciences, says,

“Despite advances in prevention, the leptospirosis disease is not only widespread but growing within the US canine population.

The multitude of clinical signs and lack of an accurate in-clinic diagnostic tool make early diagnosis of this disease a great challenge.

As a consequence, 1 in 5 dogs die because of complications associated with the infection.”

So how seriously you choose to take it is going to be a case by case situation depending on you, as the owner, and your pet’s lifestyle.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re trying to decide whether you should give your dog the lepto vaccine or not:

The riks of leptospirosis in your state

While leptospirosis exists worldwide, it is most commonly found in warm, tropical areas, as well as areas with heavy rainfall and frequent flooding.

Yep, that means that Washington State, our beloved rainy home, has a relatively high incidence rate of canine leptospirosis compared to many other states in the U.S.

If your state’s climate is warm or temperate, and rain or high humidity is common, your area could have a higher risk for leptospirosis (it’s always good to research your specific area).

Here is a leptospirosis risk map aggregated from data over several years to give you the idea of the riks in your own state.

Photo Credit: BMC Veterinary Research

If the climate where you live is changing

Even within Washington State, the incidence rate of canine lepto cases has steadily increased over the last ten years, specifically in Western Washington.

From a global perspective, this rise in cases is believed to be the result of climate change (which has consequently resulted in increased flooding), as well as deforestation and urban development, which is bringing infected wildlife closer and closer to our front doors.

If  the area you live in is warmer and wetter than it used to be, leptospirosis cases may be on the rise.

Do You (the Human) Have a Compromised Immune System?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be spread from animals to humans.

Yep, that means that you, too, could be at risk of contracting the bacteria through your dog’s urine.

That being said, the likelihood of a person catching the disease directly from his/her dog is slim…. unless the person has a compromised immune system.

Then the risk may be higher.

More often than not, leptospirosis in humans is acquired through infected drinking water or handling soil with an opened wound.

Still, it’s something to consider, especially if you have little kids.

Are You Willing to Take the Risk With Your Dog?

If your unvaccinated dog does become infected with leptospirosis, there is hope for recovery.

I mention this because, if you feel that your dog is at relatively low risk of coming in contact with the disease, and you decide the vaccine is not for you, yet by some random stroke of misfortune your pup falls ill, it’s not necessarily a death sentence.

For starters, it’s possible your dog’s immune system could fight off the disease on its own.

Because the symptoms are so non-descript, and potentially subtle, you could not be alarmed enough to take your dog to the vet.

It is possible that they could just “get over it” without medical intervention.

Unfortunately though, the kidneys are typically compromised after so letting them fight it on their own is not the best course of action.

In the more likely situation that your dog shows visible symptoms of lepto, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics for at least four weeks.

When treated early, the chances of recovery are relatively high.

Sounds Like My Dog Could Be At Risk But Is The Leptospirosis Vaccine Necessary?

Dachshund getting a vaccination

Cue the ongoing debate over whether or not the lepto vaccine is necessary, safe, or even effective.

If you research this topic, you’ll find a wide array of opinions on the subject.

Some veterinarians will swear against it, and other veterinarians will strongly recommend it.

Somewhat maddening, I know.

The biggest cause for divided opinion is credited to the adverse side effects that dogs can experience when administered the vaccine.

Typical adverse reactions to the lepto vaccine include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • The formation of tumors (in extreme cases)
  • Anaphylactic shock (in extreme cases)
  • Death (in extreme cases)

In addition, bacterin vaccines don’t prevent infection entirely. Rather, they decrease the severity of symptoms.

That’s definitely better than nothing, but it has raised the question from many pet owners on whether it’s really worth it.

Even more notable, it’s been found that Dachshunds are the most likely dog breed to experience adverse reactions to the leptospirosis vaccine (Pugs, Boston Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, and Chihuahuas following close behind.)

This is in large part because vaccines are prescribed on a “one size fits all” basis, putting smaller pups at a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction than a dog five times their size.

Other factors that can have an effect on reactions to the vaccine are:

  • Age
  • Purebred status
  • Underlying health conditions
  • Whether your dog is neutered/spayed.

While it’s just as important to be educated on what could go wrong, it’s also important to understand that extreme reactions are relatively rare, and ALL vaccines pose the risk of adverse reactions.

A study done in 2005 (published in JAVMA, the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association in October, 2005) reported on data taken from over three million vaccine doses, and found that the lepto vaccine, in combination with DAPP, had an adverse reaction less than 3% of the time (a percentage no different than coronavirus or rabies vaccinations.)

How to Minimize or Prevent Adverse Leptospirosis Vaccine Reactions

One way to prevent negative lepto vaccine reactions from happening is by spacing out the vaccinations.

It’s been found that administering three or more vaccines during one veterinarian visit can increase the risk of a negative reaction by 50%.

Some veternarians will prescribe or administer antihistamines like Benadry as a precaution or if a dog had a negative reaction to the lepto vaccine before.

Final Thoughts

So at this point you may be somewhat torn on what to do.

Here’s MY opinion: do your research, because no two dogs are the same, and PLEASE talk to your trusted vet.

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, the decision comes down to you and your vet’s personal and professional discretion. There is no right or wrong answer.

So, What Did I Decide for My Dachshunds?

Dachshunds at Franklin Falls

I weighed the risks of the lepto vaccine for my Dachshunds vs. the benefits and I’m still not sure if it’s necessary for my dogs to get it.

When it comes to Chester, I’ve decided I’m not going to give him the lepto vaccine.

I feel like the vaccine risk for him is high because:

  1. He’s a Dachshund and it’s known to affect them worse than other breeds and
  2. He’s 14 years old. I feel like there is more risk for vaccines to do harm to older dogs.

The truth is, he’s never been one to drink out of streams or puddles anyway.

He’s also not a digger so the likelihood of him ingesting dirt is low.

He’s been hiking for most of his 14 years without getting sick so it doesn’t feel very urgent to me.

Gretel is a bit of a different story.

She is only 7. She has a whole lot of years ahead of her… which means many more years to possibly get sick from something.

If you had asked me last year, I probably would have been no more concerned for her than I was for Chester though. Up until this summer, she was never one to drink out of streams or puddles either.

For some reason, she started this year. She’s been stopping to drink out of streams on trails.

What really freaks me out is she’ll sneak a drink from a dirty puddle in the city! It’s like she just discovered she could do that.

She also eats dirt in our back yard. I think she’s going for the worms in our dark, marshy soil but she literally eats holes through the grass into the dirt.

All of that puts her at higher risk of contracting leptospirosis.

Since the study I mentioned above found that an adverse reaction occurred in less than 3% of dogs vaccinated for Lepto, I feel like the risk of her getting it outweighs the risk of the vaccination making her sick.

However, the vaccine does not offer total protection from a dog contracting leptospirosis.

I definitely plan to talk with my vet about giving her the vaccine but still haven’t given her the vaccine to date.

I’ve thought about it long and hard and decided that’s what’s best for MY pups.

If you decide differently and don’t think your dog is a high-risk case, or don’t want to take your chances with the vaccine, that’s okay too!

Either way, I encourage everyone to visit the site LeptoInfo.com to participate in an online risk assessment and to learn more about the prevalence of the disease in your geographic area.

Has your dog had the lepto vaccine?

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

53 Comments

  1. Nice post with good, accurate facts. I almost lost a dog (Baylee) to a reaction to the Lepto vaccine. The breeder I got my first 4 pups from had told me under no circumstances to give the vaccine, but the vet talked me into it since I live near a wilderness type park and have critters sometimes in my yard. I swore never again! We’ve changed vets since and the current one is trying to talk me into using it on a new puppy by telling me it is now improved and administered as a combo vaccine. I just can’t justify the need for it. I also encourage discussing it with your vet and deciding what’s best for your dog!

    1. We have our oldest the Lepto vaccine when she was a pup. We did it seperately from her other vaccines and she had a mild, but definite reaction. It was scary enough that we haven’t done it since with her or our other three girls. Our vet does think we should do it because our girls hike and dig and swim and drink from anything…so we are considering it going into this fall and winter when we do most of our hiking and camping. If we do give them, we will keep a very close eye on them!

      1. I’m sorry to hear your pup had a bad reaction. Can you share what happened? I want to gather info so I know what I might expect if Gretel does have a reaction. Vets aren’t super forthcoming with that information (although, I know it can really vary so it’s hard to say).

        1. It was four years ago so my memory is spotty other than knowing she did react and we were quite scared for the evening. From what I recall, she was acting very strange the evening she got the vaccine, definitely not her normal demeanor. If I remember correctly she had labored breathing and was very anxious like she knew something wasn’t right too. I think she also threw up. It was all very unusual for her. It only lasted for a few hours but the vet agreed that it was most likely a reaction to the lepto so we have avoided it in all 4 girls with the vets approval until this year. She is now suggesting we revisit the vaccine. We are definitely considering it since there is a high likelihood that they would be exposed. And Lolo was a tiny pup when she had the vaccine before. She is now a beefy 13 pounder so hopefully it will be a different experience if we go that route.

          Side note…we are taking Hannah in for a consultation about the laser disc ablation procedure after her 4 ruptured discs and two back surgeries this summer! I’ll let you know how that goes if you are interested in the information for your files. We are hoping it keeps her out of trouble for a while. She is just about to have her 4th birthday and has too much spunk and life and love to have to deal with another rupture.

          1. Hi Tifany – Those reaction symptoms sound scary. I’m glad they went away. I would love to hear how the laster disc ablation goes. If Gretel ever needs surgery, that’s something I am definitely going to look into. Good luck to you and Hannah.

            1. I have a mini dachshund who is just under 4 months my vet gave her lepto and rabies shot in the same day. Horrible side effects vomiting lethargic and her muzzle swelled up. Had to have the vet give her a steroid and Benadryl. I’m not happy I should have done research. Thank you for your info

              1. My vet did the same ! Instead it was the flu and lepto shot. My poor puppy also 4 months suffered very bad side effects. Hives, swollen face. I promise to never get him that shot again.

      2. You know I’ve recently been considering it for my youngest as id like to take him to his first dog park and alot of them here are in more nature like areas, and well being a young dachshund they put all kinds of stuff in their mouths. Though I am super torn because he had a 5 in 1 vaccine as a pup. w/ out the lepto and he has a really adverse reaction. Where we had to take him back to the vet twice. They gave him a BIG dose of benadryl first, and the swelling didnt go down so we took him back 3 hrs later because he was still swollen and itchy they gave him fast acting anti inflammation meds. So after this im very nervous about his vaccines…. But I am considering having the lepto done, with benadryl in his system in advance and ask to leave him for 3-4 hours under vet supervision just to be safe.

        1. How scary. I’m glad you have a plan in place if you choose to go forward with the lepto (it sounds like a good idea to do that).

    2. I’m sorry Beth. That is so scary. We kick ourselves when we imagine scemarios where we don’t vaccinate and then we sometimes kick ourselves when we do. I too got the spiel from my vet about how the vaccination has been improved. I’m still on the fence though.

  2. This is so important and also so complicated. I’m sure whatever your decision will be, it will be the best thing you’ve done. Thanks for bringing this up!

  3. I finally made the decision to give both of my dachshunds the lepto vaccine after years of being told not to because they are dachshunds. We have moved to a more rural area and more wildlife are in the vacinity of our home and my dogs are diggers and puddle drinkers too. One of my dogs had an allergic reaction with facial swelling and vomiting. But I still feel I have made the right decision because watching a dig die from leptospirosis is a lot worse than an allergic reaction. I am a vet tech.

    1. Hi Wendy. Thannks for the insight. I also think, for me, that tolerating a mild reaction might be worth the vaccination. I remember when I was a kid and got the Polio vaccine. My legs hurt so bad for a couple of days. My parents had to carry me around. I would rather have endured that for a couple of days than actually gottoen Polio!

  4. Another bad thing is that even if you vaccinate, that doesn’t mean your dog will not contract Lepto. Jeffie was vaccinated. Yes. And that vaccination included the strain of Lepto that killed him. AND Jeffie had ZERO symptoms until it was too late. Since we live in the country we’ve always vaccinated for Lepto. However, from my research there are a number of breeds that commonly have reactions to the vaccination – as you so well noted. It’s a tricky decision. Really terrific post. Most of us don’t think much about Lepto, but if our dogs are ever in any area where there’s wildlife, especially water, we owe it to our dogs to carefully consider vaccination.

    1. Hi Sue. I hope you are doing well. I think of you and what happened to Jeffie all of the time. I forgot that he actually did have the vaccination though (but remember now that you mention it). Yours is a very unfortunate reminder that getting the vaccination doesn’t guaruntee that one’s dog won’t contract lepto.

  5. I got the lepto vaccine for Gretchen since we live in an area with tons of deer, possums, skunks, etc. Dogs don’t have to drink dirty water; they can pick it up from a cut on their feet. My vet had warned me about the adverse side effects, especially after she had an episode after getting her rabies vaccination. I gave her 1 whole Benadryl about an hour before our appointment as instructed by my vet. Happy to say she had no side effects with either of the shots! (lepto is administered in 2 doses).

    1. The benadryl is a good idea as a precaution. I’ll definitely discuss that with my vet if I decide to give Gretel the vaccine.

  6. I’m very conservative about vaccinations and received the hard sell on this one when Scout and Zoey were puppies. Rodrigo and Sydney aren’t vaccinated for Lepto – it wasn’t even brought up. However, Scout and Zoey were vaccinated, because at the time I wanted to go hiking with them. I did a little homework and there was little information and nothing terrible was written (that has changed, which isn’t surprising given that all vaccinations can result in a negative reaction).

    I believe that one vaccine is sufficient once dogs reach their first year so I will not be re-vaccinating our dogs. I don’t hike with my dogs, but we do live in a rural area with wild animals and water sources, so this is definitely a concern.

    Thanks for the great post.

    1. See… you DID have aspirations of hiking one day. Let’s go! 🙂 It’s such a hard decision what to vaccinate for and what not to. I’m still on the fence waffling back and forth. I’m glad you were able to come to a decision that works for you.

  7. I have a friend who spent $4k only to lose her dog to lepto. Her vet never once suggested the vac. It was sad.

    I have acreage, woods, a pond, and a creek on my property, and regularly hike it with my dogs. They are vaccinated against lepto.

    1. Hi Rebekah. That’s sad that your friend lost her dog. I’m curious about the $4k. Was that for the treatment of the lepto before her pup passed away?

  8. Hi,
    I know it can be dangerous to my babies but my dachshunds are allergic to the Lepo vaccine. Of course we did not know this until they received their first shot of it and they almost died from the reaction. So we have to take our chances- we live in the city with a fenced in yard and hopefully we will avoid them getting infected! I am very concerned of course, but I hope my sweet girls will live a long and happy life– Lepo free!

    1. It’s scary that we can’t know if they will have a reaction or not until we actually try the shot 🙁

  9. Humans can also contract Lepto. Often the symptoms, as with dogs, are silent until too late. I read a post on Facebook that described the sudden death of a man after a camping trip; several others were also mildly sick afterward. It was discovered that there was rat urine on their soda cans and they didn’t wash the cans before drinking from them. I didn’t believe this until I checked the CDC site and they confirmed that humans are also susceptible.

    1. Yes, it’s mentioned above that it can be transfered from animals to humans. I didn’t know it was ast potentially deadly for humans though. I thought it was more like Giardia. I’m definitely going to give drinking unfiltered water a second though (it’s something I rarely do but…).

      1. I caught Leptospirosis from a dog while volunteering at the shelter…started with a sore spot in my back that would not go away. Huge doses of antibiotics.no handling of sick dogs after that unless I wear gloves

  10. We discussed it with our vet many times but never felt we needed Lepto vaccinations. Recently a friend of ours nearly lost her dog to Lepto, and her second dog tested positive. At our last vet appt. we revisited the issue and decided to vaccinate. According to our vet, and what we have heard and seen, Lepto is on the rise around our area, and in many places around the US. If your dog is around water, out in the woods, and around lots of areas with other dogs, it might be a good idea to check into it. The vaccine is supposed to have been improved recently. We feel getting vaccinated is the best thing for us with our life style right now.

    1. Thanks for that insight. I’m definitely going to look into it more for Gretel. She’s been in pretty much every situation you described. I’m going to take my chances with Chester due to his age.

  11. Hi Jessica – I vaccinate both of my dogs, Oscar and Greta, for lepto. Greta has always been allergic to pretty much all of her vaccinations (her face and tongue swelled, and throat closed up), so her shots are given with a dose of steroid, a dose of benadryl, and we do each shot one week apart every year. Yes, thats roughly 5 weekly trips to the vet for shots a year. Since she had her first reaction and we started this regimen for her, we have had absolutely no problems at all. I will continue this since we just moved to Connecticut, along with adding a Lyme disease vaccination since we definitely have critters here – there was a HUGE coyote in the back yard this morning ACK!!! and we get lots of deer too.

  12. Ruby the doxie has had the lepto shot, every year. She has the DHLPP with no reaction. Since I caught lepto in college from a dog (volunteering at the shelter), I would rather my dog had the shot that risk the disease. I have not seen a reaction before, and have had lots of different breeds + doxies. I read a few articles on doxies not giving them the vaccine, but they were giving DHLPP.. duh, the “L” in the shot stands for Leptospirosis. Maybe luckily we had not had a reaction, but it’s a nasty disease for man and beast.

  13. Both of my doxies received the DHLLP vaccination as puppies as recommended by my vet. When they went back the following year for annual boosters, my male experienced an allergic reaction to the DHLLP vaccination. Within the hour, his head and neck swelled and he had difficulty breathing. I rushed him back to the vet and got there just in time for it was a Saturday and they only opened until noon that day. The vet administered a shot of Benadryl and kept him for observation. The vet recommended against any future lepto vaccine for him, but to date, my female has never reacted to it, so she continues to get it. They are both currently 7 years old and we do live in a rural area. The vet said any dog can develop a reaction to any vaccine at any time, even if they have received the vaccine previously with no problems. Because of this, I now schedule their annual visits in the morning hours on a weekday, so that I can monitor them and get them back to the vet if necessary.

  14. Had a friend almost lose her Dachshund to lepto & after close to $10 spent & 3 wks in ICU he pulled through but not without a lot of specialized care & subcutaneous fluids given at home for almost 1 year. They live in a rural area of Florida & her 1st vet decided not to give the Lepto vaccine without telling my friend. Her Doxie has recovered , luckily without severe kidney damage as he was anticipated to have. Sad part is, there are several different types of Lepto bacteria but only a limited number of vaccines against the multiple different strains of Lepto out there. If there’s any question, Benadry is ALWAYS a safe bet & according to current info available, the one size fits all Lepto vaccine has been…improved.

  15. We recently adopted our little dachshund and the vet recommended that we get the lepto vaccine, but didn’t mention any of the risks in getting the vaccine. He had gotten other vaccines when we got him in November and none posed a problem. In hindsight, we should have researched it more, but we just assumed the vet knew best. Our little Louie had an allergic reaction within ten minutes of receiving the vaccine this January and couldn’t stop puking and could barely walk. It was extremely stressful for us. He ended up having to get an IV and steroids and stay at the vet for 6 hours because of the puking and because of his face swelling. Once we took him home he continued to dry heave for 3 hours and when we called back the vet, they sent us to an emergency vet because they said they couldn’t do anything more for us. Once we got him to the emergency vet (10 hours after he got the vaccine) he was still dry heaving and extremely depressed. They ended up giving him and anti-nausea medicine and some electrolytes since he had puked all day and he finally was a little bit more perky. After a long and stressful day and a little sleep, he slowly returned back to normal. I would highly recommend that anyone who is considering this vaccine to research and weigh your options. Wish I would have read this blog before we gave Louie the vaccine!

    1. Ugh. I’m so sorry to hear your pup had a bad reaction. Every vet I’ve mentioned the possibility of bad reaction to discounts it. They say, “oh, that hardly happens anymore because… *insert some reason*”. I hear stories like yours though and I don’t believe it. I still haven’t given Gretel a lepto vaccination. I’m still a little on the fence about it, although I may go ahead and do it this spring. Even though the whole ordeal was traumatic for both of you, I’m glad that Louie was ok in the end. I heard you have to give the vaccine every year. I assume you aren’t going to do it again?

      1. Well he was supposed to get two rounds of the vaccine. Since he had that reaction with his first, they strongly recommended that we don’t do the next round because of his reaction.

        On a lighter note, your website is our go-to for anything dachshund related. You gave us great tips on how to travel with a dog and we ended up buying the same travel carrier when we adopted him. We also recently bought him a coat thanks to your suggestions! In Louie’s first Instagram post, he even called out your website (@ourlittlelouie).

        Thanks again for all of your help!

        1. Leigh, sorry I missed your IG post. I’m following you guys now 🙂 I’m happy to hear that we’ve inspired you and helped you and Louie do some traveling.

  16. I’m currently feeling anxious and torn. My dachshund puppy is scheduled to receive the lepto vaccine in a few days. The breeder I got him from told me to avoid the vaccine at all costs because one of her other pups died from a bad reaction to it. The vet basically told me there’s nothing to worry about, and said that living in Washington state it’s very important to get the vaccine. I’m not sure what to do. These stories of bad reactions scare me, but the stories of dogs suddenly dying from lepto scare me too.

    1. Unfortunately, you can’t know for sure until you try giving your pup the vaccine. I have also deliberated for a long time about giving it to Gretel. I’ve heard from many Dachshund owners and talked to many veterinarians. Your pup’s relatives having a severe reaction to the vaccine can mean a higher risk. Do you know details of the circumstances though? Was the dog already a bit sick? Was the vaccine the old or new style? How long ago did this happen? Most Dachshund owners I talked to said their dog had a mild allergic reaction. They recommended giving a dog benadryl before the vaccine to take care of that. A few said their dog’s reaction was so bad that they won’t give the vaccine again (but I haven’t heard any personal stories of a dog dying from it). According to my vet, the vaccines have been improved and there is little risk. They said the stories you hear of death or bad reactions are stories perpetuated from years ago and/or the dog had other health issues that contributed. To be honest though, they are interested in giving the dog a vaccine so I suspect they are painting it in the best light possible. Still, I know people whose dogs have died from Lepto itself. It’s usually very swift and devastating. The risk in Western Washington is high because of all of the backyard wildlife and rain (so stagnant puddles). As with most things in life – it’s a benefit/risk analysis thing and a decision only you can make.

  17. I have two senior chihuahuas and they were both given the lepto vaccine while under anesthesia during their dental surgeries, but after reading your information and everyone else’s experiences, I’m not sure that I will take them in for their booster shot in a few months. Both dogs were pretty lethargic and “not themselves “ for a good 24 hrs afterwards, but now they’re okay. We currently live in Chicago, but plan on moving to Seattle in 5 months and we are avid hikers. The dogs hike with us for part of the way and we carry them in doggie backpacks, since they aren’t as agile as they used to be. This information gave me a lot to think about. Thank you!

    1. Hi Beth. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about “lethargic and not themselves”. That pretty much describes Chester and Gretel after any vaccine they get. When you get here, I would talk to your vet. Be sure to mention how much you hike. I asked my vet about the vaccine and she said, “they don’t really need it unless they hike a lot”. I was like do you know who we are?? (We’d been going to her for years) Ha, ha. Lepto is not very common here but I’ve seen it pop up in other areas of the country where it’s not considered common either. Your vet should know the latest about what’s going on around here. A little down after a vaccine is way better than getting Lepto.

  18. I’m going to the Great Smokey Mountains area at the end of Oct. I really want to take my lil doxie with since he loves going on trial walks at the parks here at home (Tampa, FL area). After reading all this, I’m a bit freaked out, to be honest. I called my vet and chatted with her about the vaccine. She’s reluctant because she’s had a few dogs react to the vaccine, but also told me that the other vet in her office has never had one react. While she did express concern about the potential of him encountering the bacteria, she also wouldn’t really give me a “yes, you should” or “no, you shouldn’t” answer. She did say that she’s never had a pup die from the vaccine though, so there’s that. Even still, I’m conflicted to the point to where I’m starting to rethink taking him on the trip with me. Side note, she expressed a big concern about ticks and advised that I temporarily change his flea meds to one that included tick repellent, in addition to using a tick collar.

    1. Hi KT. Leptosporosis can be a risk everywhere there is water and wildlife. Even in your back yard! Dogs can get it from eating contaminated grass or from drinking out of puddles. I understand your dilemma. I still have not given Gretel the vaccine and I’m not sure I ever will. To me though, the risk is the same in our back yard as it is out hiking. Personally, I wouldn’t feel taking Gretel to another area to hike was any riskier than having her at home. Ticks on the other hand are a very big risk for disease, especially on the east coast. I would 1000% (the extra zero is on purpose) take every precaution to protect your pup from ticks.

  19. We are currently trying to make decisions about vaccinating a new doxie pup and I found this site – thanks for the info! One thing I will add is that a lot of people talk about acute reactions to the vaccination but no one is mentioning the long term effects such as immune system suppression that can lead to cancer. It goes way beyond 24 hours of acting lethargic, facial swelling etc….just because the visible acute symptoms post vaccination disappear don’t discount the strong possibility that changes have taken place in the bodies immune system that will lead to future health issues.

    1. Hi Ann. Do you have supporting information for this you can share? I hear these arguements a lot against any vaccination but have not read this specific claim against this specific vaccination (I research a lot but it’s near impossible to catch every detail). Thanks.

  20. Our two 10 and 11 year old dachshunds recently got their first vaccination of Lepto 4.

    The older one had facial swelling and the emergency vet said we were lucky we brought her in when when we did as she could have quickly gone into shock and died.

    The younger one started holding her back leg where she got the injection weird and not putting pressure on it walking. The next day she started to lose control of her back legs and quickly descended into IVDD, becoming paralyzed in the back half of the body. We got her the $12k spinal surgery the next day (was as soon as the vet could) and then she was a rare case that got myelomalacia. It rapidly progressed to where she could almost not breath, and we had to put her down 2 days ago. It’s been one of the saddest weeks of my life, and while it’s clear from the MRI that she had chronic back issues, it seems too much of a coincidence that the Lepto vaccine didn’t trigger an IVDD disc rupture. I will NEVER vaccinate my remaining dachshund for Lepto again.

    1. I’m very sorry for your loss. I agree that it was too much of a coincidence that the IVDD injury happened right after the vaccination. In my experience, it’s likely that it was some struggle, or the way she was held, when the vaccination was given that set it off. That’s very tragic and I’m sorry. I’m glad that you were able to catch the issue early with your other pup before something bad happened to her.

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