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County Issues Veterinary Health Alert for an Outbreak of Canine Leptospirosis, a Bacterial Infection

Some of the cases appear to originate in a Santa Monica dog boarding facility

The Director of Veterinary Public Health for Los Angeles County issued an animal health alert to veterinarians in the area, informing them that they have noted a large increase in reported confirmed and suspected canine leptospirosis cases over the last few weeks. Most of the affected dogs either live in or had exposures in locations on the west side of the county or in the San Fernando Valley. Additionally, a number of dogs may have been exposed at a boarding facility in Santa Monica. Some dogs have been exposed at dog parks or beaches. To date, several cases have required hospitalization and extensive care. Although some of these dogs have confirmed positive on either serology or PCR testing of blood and/or urine, the causative Leptospira species or serovar(s) involved are currently not known.

Leptospirosis (lepto) is a "serious bacterial disease" that affects many animal species, including dogs and humans.

Wildlife, such as raccoons, rats, oppossums and skunks, carry the disease, which can then be passed on directly (or indirectly) to dogs.

Unfortunately, some dogs may never show symptoms of being ill. Others can be lethargic and show signs of depression. They can also display any or all of these symptoms:

Lack of interest in eating


Spontaneous cough


Jaundice (yellowish color in the mouth or gums)

Changes in urination patterns or frequency

Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals which gets into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Animals become infected when they come into direct contact with this contaminated water or soil. The bacteria enter through cuts in the skin or through mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth). Animals can also become infected by drinking contaminated water. Alternatively, bite wounds, exposure to reproductive secretions, and even eating infected tissues can transmit this infection. The bacteria can also be inhaled (aerosol). ​Avoid contact with contaminated water or soil environments or infected wildlife, especially rodents. Do not allow animals to drink from or enter contaminated bodies of water.

Thankfully, there is a vaccine that prevents against lepto.

Leptospirosis vaccines are available for dogs. These vaccines help to prevent disease severity but may not completely prevent infection. Vaccination against Leptospira interrogans sensu lato is only available for the serovars called Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Pomona and Icterohaemorragiae. Some vaccines cover all four serovars while others cover only two out of four. The American Animal Hospital Association vaccine guidelines consider vaccination against leptospirosis to be optional but recommends that if you are going to vaccinate for leptospirosis, use a vaccine covering all four serovars.

Veterinary Angels will be carrying the vaccine that covers all 4 Lepto strains.

If your dog has never received a leptospirosis vaccine before, the initial vaccination series is 2 doses given 3 - 4 weeks apart. After the second vaccine, your pet will need to have the vaccine boostered annually. If your dog is current on his/her annual exam, you may schedule a technician appointment for the leptospirosis vaccination. If your pet is overdue for an annual exam, you will need to schedule the appointment for the initial vaccine with a doctor.

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