Click on title for previous posts in this series:
Disclaimer: I want to make one thing clear: I am not against vaccinating your pets. I will be sharing our experiences, as well as information I have learned through research and from our own veterinarian. My intent is only to share information that might be important for pet families to know. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
Core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs, non-core vaccines are special vaccines that are recommended based on lifestyle and exposure to certain diseases. Most non-core vaccines only last for one year. The most common ones are Bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme, Leptospirosis, and Canine Influenza (a hot topic in some areas of the country right now).
Today we will cover Bordetella and Leptospirosis. In Part 5B we’ll cover Lyme and Canine Influenza.
Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory ailment commonly contracted in boarding kennels and other situations where dogs are in close proximity, and is also known as infectious tracheal bronchitis. A dry, hacking cough and vomiting are common symptoms. These symptoms can often be mild and resolve on their own, but they can lead to pneumonia in young, old, or dogs with weakened immune systems.
We had our own experience with this when Luke came down with it only two days after he came home with us at 8 weeks old. He mostly likely contracted it when being transported from down South. He had, however, been vaccinated for it before he left Alabama. I went into a panic because I knew this was highly contagious, and most dangerous for young puppies and older dogs (and we still had our older Kobi then). Our vet, however, was far less worried. Luke was put on antibiotics, and we were assured that the other healthy dogs weren’t that likely to contract it, and if they did it would most likely be mild and just run its course like a human cold.
That all turned out to be true – the other dogs never came down with it, and Luke was better in just 2 days. Apparently there are different strains of this disease out there, so a vaccine is not a guarantee that they won’t contract it! Many places such as kennels, training centers, daycares and groomers require your dogs to have this vaccine.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can also be transmitted to humans (though it is more common for humans to contract this on their own, not from their dog). It is contracted by coming into contact with the urine of an infected animal, most likely by wading in water that contains that urine. The most common symptoms are fever, depression, joint and muscle pain, and this ultimately can lead to liver and kidney damage. It is more common in certain areas of the country than others. I tried to find a map showing this, but I couldn’t (apparently you can’t find everything on the internet).
Lepto is treated with antibiotics and if caught early the chances of recovery are good. But why not just vaccinate? There are some problems with it: The vaccine is more likely than others to cause an adverse reaction (though that is said to have improved in time)…when Cricket had her first vaccination reaction, the first thing that was removed from her protocol was the lepto part. The other problem is similar to the bordetella problem, there are many different strains of this disease and even if you vaccinate it can still be contracted (there may be over 200 strains of this disease and the vaccine might cover 4 of them at the most).
When our beagle Kobi became ill in his old age, and showed signs of kidney and liver damage, the first thing our vet wanted to check for was Lepto. Imagine our surprise since Kobi was our one dog that had consistently been vaccinated for that! Again, I panicked, reading how contagious this disease was not to just our other dogs but us too. Our vet wasn’t as worried. At that point, Lepto could have been treatable, whereas it turned out Kobi did not have that and it was old age making his organs fail. One other issue with this vaccine is the fact that it may not even last for the full year that it’s said to.
We have dropped Lepto from all of our dogs’ protocol because it is not that common in our area, and we don’t hike into the woods a lot anymore. If we traveled further south quite often our vet would advise it more. We also don’t vaccinate for bordetella (other than Luke early on). Our dogs don’t go to daycare or dog parks, and they don’t stay in kennels.
That is what I think needs to be considered with both of these vaccines: whether or not it is necessary for your dog to have it yearly (or even twice a year in the case of kennel cough). You and your vet need to consider the situations that your dogs are exposed to. We also need to avoid panicking over diseases that are treatable. To be safe, if you do decide to get these vaccines for your dog, I would separate them from the other vaccines (usually by at least two weeks). Leptospirosis is often lumped in with core vaccines, and I don’t think that’s safe. It is available as a stand alone vaccine and I think that’s the only way it should be given. What we’re trying to avoid here is over-vaccination and dropping non-core vaccines that might not be needed is a good place to start.
For more information on both of these diseases: