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lepto vaccine-not now!

by Ed & Erica

Our vet refused to give our new maltese puppy vaccination for Leptovirus until he is 6 months old. He said it was safer not to vaccinate him for that now because he might have a reaction. Has anyone else been told this or had a problem. I need a 2nd opinion please.


Please bear in mind when reading topics pertaining to health issues, that many of these questions were answered by helpful Maltese owners with no formal education in veterinarian medicine. When in doubt seek a professionals advise.

From what I've read in posts here, your vet has made a wise decision. Check out some of the posts on this vaccination in the archives. At least one parent believes the shot caused liver damage that resulted in the death of her baby.
-cathy brown

When our puppy Sassie was about 16 weeks old she had her Leptos vaccine. She had a very severe reaction to the shot. Within 5 minutes of returning home she was vomiting, shaking, and could not hold her head up. By the time I arrived back at the Vets office (5 minutes away) she was limp and basicly unconscious. Thankfully, we able to get her to the vet in time to stop the worst part of the reaction. Even after she was out of danger she continued to have problems from the shot. Her nose swelled up like a ping pong ball, her shin was itchy, and she was lethargic.

My mother and sister both have Maltese. My mother's dog had a reaction but not near as severe. He had some swelling around his face and diarrhea for two days. My sister's dog had no problems with the shot.

I would follow the vets suggestion and wait for the shot. When your puppy does receive the shot, you should plan it for a time when you will be able to watch the puppy for a reaction after the shot. Good luck in whatever you decide.

A lot of Maltese will have an alergic reaction to Lepto shots, this is why it is advised that Maltese should not receive it at all. I gave Lepto shots to all my dogs for years, then one day my vet told me not to give it. I told him I had never had a reaction, he said, I still think you shouldn't give it, there hasn't been a case of Lepto. in Northern Calif. for over 30 years! Why take a chance? Well, that was over 20 years ago, I haven't given it since. For those of you that don't know, the way dogs are exposed to Lepto is, drinking water or eating food that a mouse or some other animal carring this desease has urinated in, or sniffing a tree where an animal carring this desease has urinated on. With most people that have Maltese, this is not going to ever happen. We don't let our precious babies do these things. (ggg)
-Carole - Fantasyland Maltese

The Lepto shot is not a modified live virus vaccine because Leptospirosis is a bacterial rather than a viral disease. What makes up the Lepto shot is a chemically inactivated bacterium containing more potential individual disease units capable of causing reactions.

Most reactions I am told do not occure after the first inoculation but rather after the 2nd or 3rd! This is because after the 2nd or 3rd shot antibodies produced by the puppies immunes system become hypersensitive. We too, like Carole, have never had one of our Maltese suffer any anaphylaxis effects when we used to vacinate them with Lepto vaccine along with their initial puppy shots. We do keep the Lepto out of their schedule now though and they do not get their first until 6 months of age.

Allergic reactions are not the Lepto shot's only drawback. Existing Leptospira bacterium provide neither as high a level nor as long a duration of immunity as modified live canine vaccines. Of the four most common leptospirae known to infect dogs [L.canicola, L. icterohemorrhagiae, L. pomora and L. grippotyphosa], the Lepto shot we currently use contains only two bacterium: L. canicola and L. icterohemorrhagiae! The primary immunization series, usually requiring three inoculations, provides only six months protection against the disease. Subsequent vaccination programs, normally based on annual boosters, are inadequate . A 1989 Tufts University study of 17 dogs with confirmed leptospirosis showed all 17 to be infected with L. pomona and L. grippotyphosa which are not currently included in lepto vaccines. Nine of the 17 dogs had been vaccinated against leptospirosis within the previous six months.

Further reasons for our decision to discontinue the Lepto shot at under 6 mos of age was that our Maltese genes, lifestyle and locale. Regarding genetics, canine veterinary literature suggests that certain breeds or certain lines within a breed may be more sensitive to vaccinations. Small toy breeds, especially closely bred ones, seemed to be at greater risk of vaccine reactions than large breeds and outcrossed ones.

As for lifestyle and locale, transmission of leptospirosis among dogs most often results from their ingesting water or food contaminated by the urine of infected wild and domestic animals. Dogs (L. canicola), rats (L. icterohemorrhagiae), voles (L. grippotyphosa), cows and pigs (L. pomona) are the known primary reservoir hosts. Our dogs do not run free or drink from ponds or streams. Their food is stored in a rodent-proof container. We feel the risk of our dogs being exposed to Leptospirosis in the natural environment seems minimal. Our vet has seen very few cases in our area. There are statistics on Lepto for all parts of the country and your vet in your locale must have based his decision on the chances of contracting this virus vs the consequences of the reaction that might occur.

I would urge all Maltese owners to discuss the benefits versus risks of Lepto vaccinations with your vet -- prior to inoculation!

Ed and Erica,I am the Mom that Cathy spoke of about losing a baby to Lepto. Although the vet nor I will ever be 100% certain, I do feel that my Chance's terrible reaction to the Lepto vaccine did cause irreparable damage to her liver. The autopsy showed that the liver cells were dying off. The conclusion was that something got into her system that was bad enough to destroy her liver and scar her kidney. This was a well, watched house dog, that never went outside unattended. Never got into anything toxic--I did have the house puppy proofed.Anyway, the morning after she was given her vaccination w/Lepto she was unconcious. I rushed her to the emergency vet. It took a whole month to get her to eat normally. My "old" vet who admin. the shot--said, "Oh, it wasn't the vaccine." Yeah, well...that dog was sound the day of the shot, and near death the next morning! Doesn't take brain surgery to figure it out. She never fully recovered, although she did have her good days where I thought she would be okay. She started vomiting shortly after the reation to the shot. At first, it was a couple times, then it was every time she ate dry food. So the vet put her on cottage cheese spike w/ Tagament, that worked for a while. Just when I would think that she was improving she would start vomiting again. Then I came home at lunch one day, and she had a grand mal seizure! Ten minutes later, another seizure. We rushed to the vets again. Another seizure at the vets! Our little baby got an IV and valium, and stayed the day for observation and blood tests. Her blood tests liver levels were off the charts!!! On one test she was suppose to be a 7 and she was over 300!!! We call UC Davis and got our options which were not good, and I held her head and hand and talked to her when we put her to sleep. And I know there is some risk in not giving the Lepto vaccine, depending on your area but I will never do it again. Listen to your vet, I wish I had had him for my baby.
-sally warner

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