Leptospirosis Vaccine Reaction in Dachshunds: Is it Really That Risky?

Leptospirosis (or lepto, for short) may be a risk for some dogs, and that must be weighed against the risks of the vaccine itself. 

Dachshunds are one of the breeds that can have severe negative reactions to the vaccine, and it’s important to know that before making a decision on getting your dog the vaccination.

Let’s talk about what leptospirosis is, and look further into the lepto vaccine for Dachshunds. We’ll discuss how it works, and what Dachshunds should consider getting the vaccine.

holding dog at vet
Photo credit: Depositphotos/Syda Productions

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by an infection containing the Leptospira bacteria.

This bacteria is commonly found in water and soil throughout the world, as it’s spread via contaminated urine. 

Leptospirosis can be spread from animals to humans.

Humans with leptospirosis will exhibit flu-like symptoms, and they are more likely to contract it from recreational activities involving water, than our canine counterparts. 

Warm climates and those with annual rainfall are more common breeding grounds for leptospirosis to occur. Damp environments allow Leptospira bacteria to fester and grow.

Outbreaks of leptospirosis do still occur in rural and wooded environments, specifically the South, Midwest, East Coast, and Appalachian regions.

Watch what your dog drinks out of, as streams, lakes, and rivers can have leptospirosis.

Dogs who drink from lakes, rivers, streams and other bodies of water are more likely to contract leptospirosis.

Grass in the back yard can be contaminated with lepto too, which is a potential risk if your dog likes to munch the green stuff.

Contact with rodents and contaminated soil can cause a dog to get leptospirosis, which is why Dachshunds often fall victim to it.

With Dachshunds frequently burying their noses in the ground, the chances of picking up leptospirosis are higher.

Basically, Dachshunds in wet climates who often play in the water, soil or come in contact with wildlife and rodents are most at risk for leptospirosis.

Signs of leptospirosis in dogs

Leptospirosis can cause your Dachshund to exhibit zero symptoms at all, or it can be fatal.

This disease operates on a large spectrum, so it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately anytime your dog becomes sick.

Symptoms of leptospirosis include:

  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Moving slowly
  • Increased thirst
  • Changes in urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice 
  • Painful eye inflammation

Leptospirosis can also cause liver and kidney failure in dogs, as well as lung disease and difficulty breathing. 

Many of these signs and symptoms can be the cause of other serious medical conditions, making leptospirosis difficult to diagnose. 

Your veterinarian will take a look at your Dachshund’s medical history, as well as perform a series of tests to determine the proper diagnosis.

Always let your vet know if your dog has been playing in the water or eating critters from the soil recently if they are not feeling well.

Treatment for leptospirosis in Dachshunds and other dogs includes supportive care with the help of antibiotics.

Chances of recovery are great if treated early and properly.

dog running in water
Photo credit: Depositphotos/Lilun Li

About the Leptospirosis Vaccine for Dogs

There is a leptospirosis vaccine available for dogs.

It is effective for one year, and is most commonly administered to at-risk dogs. 

Many Dachshund parents are turned off to this vaccination since it has to be given annually in order for it to be effective.

As stated above, if your Dachshund enjoys romping through water, digging in the earth and catching nearby prey, they are more likely to pick up leptospirosis.

Your vet can help you determine if your Dachshund is in the at-risk category.

Unfortunately, the lepto vaccine can come with a slew of adverse reactions.

It’s been noted that Dachshunds are the most likely to suffer from a bad reaction to the vaccine, followed by breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Chihuahuas.

Some of the reactionary symptoms of the leptospirosis vaccine are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

More severely, some dogs have even suffered from anaphylactic shock after receiving the vaccination.

So why are Dachshunds and other small dogs seemingly the most at-risk for a lepto vaccine adverse reaction?

This vaccine is created in the form of “one size fits all.”

This means that the veterinarian will give the same vaccine dose to a Mastiff as they would a Dachshund. 

Of course there are other factors that may contribute to the effectiveness of the lepto vaccine in Dachshunds, as well as its side effects.

Those includes allergies, immune deficiency, age, weight or underlying health concerns.

While vaccine reactions are rare, it’s important to be educated before your dog receives the leptospirosis shot.

Remember that all dogs face the risk of having an adverse reaction to any vaccine.

Furthermore, extreme reactions to the vaccine are rare. But they do happen, so it’s best to be educated on the subject. 

Although adverse reactions are possible, they really only occur about 3% of the time.

It sounds like a low percentage, but your dog could be one of the unlucky pups.

You just have to weigh the risks for yourself, and ultimately do what’s best for your Dachshund’s health based on a vet’s recommendations.

Something else to keep in mind when deciding on the leptospirosis vaccine for your Dachshund is the fact that it only protects against the four most prevalent strains of leptospira.

The truth is, a Dachshund can have a negative reaction to any vaccine.

The risk just happens to be much higher with the lepto vaccine due to the way it’s created to work for all size dogs.

To possibly reduce the risk of an adverse reaction to the lepto vaccine, your vet may suggest giving your Dachshund Benadryl beforehand.

It’s also recommended for your dog to be given the lepto vaccine separate from others, rather than administering a combo vaccination.

The Bottom Line on the Lepto Vaccine for Dachshunds

Dachshunds who live in damp or wooded climates are at higher risk for contracting leptospirosis.

Those who dig in soil frequently, play in water or get their paws on wildlife are also higher risk.

Dachshunds, West Highland Terriers and other small dogs are more likely to have a bad reaction to the lepto vaccine.

The risk of adverse reaction can be lowered by giving your Dachshund Benadryl beforehand (if it’s ok with your vet) and administering the lepto vaccine at a different time than the rest of them.

The leptospirosis vaccine must be given every year, which means that your Dachshund could have an adverse reaction to it each time.

In some instances, a Dachshund may not have an issue with it the first time but does the next.

dog at vet
Photo credit: Depositphotos/Syda Productions

Ultimately Dachshunds can negatively react to any vaccination, but lepto poses the biggest risk.

The leptospirosis vaccine is not necessary but it may be a good idea if your Dachshund is considered to be at-risk.

To best determine if your Dachshund is an appropriate candidate for the lepto vaccine, meet with your veterinarian to discuss options for administering it.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not your Dachshund gets the lepto vaccine is completely up to you.

Your decision should be based on your veterinarian’s recommendation, and what’s best for your dog. 

Several factors will end up determining if the risk for adverse reaction outweighs the risk of not having the vaccine.

In the end, it’s your responsibility to do what you feel is best for your Doxie.

Have you heard about the leptospirosis vaccine reaction in Dachshunds? Find out if it's as risky as you think.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. The article about the Leptospirosis vaccine was informative. It helped me make the decision to not give it my new puppy. Thank you to Jessica Rhae for this very informative article. I have been educated on Leptospirosis.

    1. Glad my information helped you. I still haven’t decided, even though I’ve been thinking about it for years, whether I will give my two current Dachshunds the vaccine. But I guess thinking about it and not doing anything is a decision in it’s own right.

  2. My 1 1/2 year female mini Dixie had her vaccines this morning, lepto being one of the at least four she received. As soon as we arrived home she threw up and became very lethargic. Called vets office and decided to monitor her at home. When her face became swollen we took her immediately back to vet. They kept her fir several hours. Administered Benadryl and steroids. We picked her up 4 hours later. Face still a bit swollen but she was much better. I don’t think we will allow them to give her this vaccination again. It was very scary for us and her. Very thankful she is better.

    1. I’m sorry that happened. Knowledgeable vets would not give a Dachshund the lepto vaccine at the same time as others. At least not without warning you and administering some kind of antihistamine preemptively. If you do decide to get it again, request that it be a single vacination and ask your vet about giving Benaddryl beforehand.

  3. Our 5 month old Dachshund got the Lepto Vaccine this morning and he can barely walk he is in so much pain. With I had seen this article before authorizing the Vet to administer it.

  4. I have had 3 previous dachshunds and all 3 reacted to the lepto vaccine. But in order to board her at the vet it is required so my newest is now 6 months old, I’ve been waiting, will probably do it eventually but am scared.

    1. I understand but most reactions are mild. I would discuss your concerns with your vet prior to the vaccination.

  5. Both of my mini dachshunds have suffered adverse reactions to multiple vaccines, not just lepto. Mainly the rabies vaccine, which is unfortunate since it’s a requirement in NYC. I’m wondering if anyone else has had this experience with their doxies with other vaccines? I know we have quite a few families and friends who live in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn where we are, and our vet here said “it’s always the dachshunds for some reason,” so I’m curious why that is!

    1. HiJosh. Probably the vaccine second to Lepto I have heard Dachshunds having a bad reaction to is rabies, although it’s significantly less often. So you’re not alone. I don’t know the cause though.

      1. I wish I had read this article before getting this vaccine for my 16 year old dachshund. She has had an upset tummy for 6 days and I was not made aware of any serious risk of side effects. She was given another vaccine and meds at the same time. I’m nursing her but she’s not too excited to hydrate. I’m unhappy with my vet now.

        1. Hi Gingerm. The reaction to vaccines is most typically hives and anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction like hives and swelling) within 30 minutes. The symptoms you are describing are different. Therefore, I don’t believe your dog is having a “reaction” to the vaccines. I’m not a vet though and there is a first for everything. If what you are describing is related to the vaccines, it’s likely that the vaccine or medication upset her tummy. Either way, I would check with your vet.

  6. We just picked up our new 9 week old mini yesterday. She’s adjusting well and we love her already.
    We’re already 99% “out” on the Lepto vaccine, but does anyone have an opion on the bordetella vaccine? I haven’t found much in terms of negatives beyond the typical disclaimers, but I weigh opinions of dog owners as a factor in my general “research” on these questions.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Christopher. I always give my dogs Bordetella and haven’t encountered any issues, nor have I heard about it from others. Next to Lepto, Dachshunds seem to have the most reactions to the rabies vaccine. Most dog daycares, boarding facilities, and dog parks require that a dog has the Bordetella vaccine so that may help sway your decision.

      1. Hello Jessica,

        Thank you for the response. She is now 13 weeks old and rules the house 🙂

        She received her 3rd Parvo vaccination last week and I’ve been getting her adjusted to the outside world since. I’m getting her Bordetella this Thursday for the reasons you suggested.

        Your website is a wonderful resource, thanks.

  7. My Boston Terrier had a reaction to this vaccine where he was super lethargic, could barely walk and would not eat or drink the next day. He now has benadryl before his vaccine boosters and he does fine!

  8. My ShiPoo received her Lyme and Lepto vaccines yesterday morning. She seemed ok until the evening when she was very restless and couldn’t seem to settle down. During the night, she was again up and wandering around the bedroom. This morning, she seems quieter but I wonder if she should have her 2nd shot next month?

    1. By your description, that doesn’t sound like anything to worry about to me. It’s not uncommon for the injection site to be slightly sore for a few hours to a day, so that could have been the source of the restlessness. The issue with the Lepto vaccine is hives and potential anaphylactic shock. Definitely talk with your vet before the next one if you are concerned though.

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