You might have heard there’s a disease on the rise in dogtown called Leptospirosis. Three questions pop into your mind —

  • what is lepto-whatever?
  • how common is it?
  • should I get my Morkie vaccinated?

Let’s take a look at those answers.

What is Leptospirosis?

This funny squiggly thing is a Leptospirosis bacterium (that’s a SINGLE bacteria) … it looks a little like a piece of lint, but it’s actually a harmful germ.

The Lepto virus is spread by the urine of infected animals.

Typically, that’s a rodent.

BUT, raccoons, dogs, and even pigs, cattle and horses can carry Lepto. The infected urine goes into the soil, and into the water system where the Lepto bacteria can survive for weeks.

Your Morkie drinks from a stream that’s been infected with rodent urine… BOOM!

Wait!! What??! That’s SOOO unlikely. 

dogs swimming in creek


Dogs swimming in a creek could be at some risk of being exposed to Lepto bacteria. Does that mean they’ll get sick? Not necesssarily.



You may have read some disturbing news about Leptospirosis being in the rise, killing animlas, being spread to humans, etc. But who is spreading this news?  The media, looking for sometning, anyhting, new to print or broadcast.  Vets, who’d love for you to drop by and spend some money, and VACCINE MANUFACTURERS, like Duramune.

Duramune recently published a study showing that 8% of dogs tested positive for Leptospirosis. As points out, “most Lepto infections are subclinical” meaning the dog isn’t sick, he just has antibodies showing he’s been exposed to Lepto. And he’s fine.  NO SYMPTOMS, NO ILLNESS.

Many Vets recommend these non-core vaccines as a matter of course. But are they really necessary?

Probably not.

The Lepto vaccination isn’t necessary, and it is downright dangerous for small dogs.


When any non-core shot is recommended, be sure to ask your Vet about your small dog’s specific chances of getting the disease, the severity of that disease, the success rate of the vaccine and the risks that come with vaccination.

Since you might not get all the answers you deserve, or you might suffer from ‘white coat syndrome’ (feeling intimidated by doctors), or you’re simply confused, please, continue your research into non-core vaccinations.

Non-core vaccines for dogs

The list is long, and includes:

  • parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
  • influenza virus H3N8
  • influenza virus H3N2
  • distemper-measles combination vaccine
  • Bordetella (kennel cough)
  • Borrelia (Lyme disease)
  • canine Corona virus
  • Rattlesnake vaccine
  • LEPTOSPIRA vaccine

The Leptospirosis vaccine is called a KILLER for a reason


They don’t work very well.

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Any vaccine can have dangerous side effects; doubly so for SMALL DOGS.

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They don’t last very long.

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How effective is the Leptospirosis vaccine?

Leptospirosis appears in many different strains (over a hundred) including a common one that attacks humans. Vaccinations work against JUST FOUR STRAINS of the disease, but other strains may still hurt your dog.

This vaccine is usually given with several others — it’s the L in combo shots.

Like all vaccines, some of the ‘extras’ or additives can be more dangerous than the product itself. Vaccines are made with toxic ingredients like Aluminium and Thimerosal. 

The vaccine (sort of) protects against FOUR strains of Lepto.

There are OVER 320 strains of Lepto!

Symptoms of Lepto infection

Symptoms of a Lepto infection include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhea, poor appetite, lethargy, depression, and blood in the urine. In more serious cases, the dog may be jaundiced – Lepto attacks the liver and kidneys. And – this is hard to see in a dog – but look for a yellowing of his gums.

Medical treatment will definitely help a dog with Lepto – milder cases can be treated at home with help from your Vet; very serious cases require hospitalization where your dog will get antibiotics and other medications to control vomiting and diarrhea.

Now look at what the vaccine can do to your Morkie

Adverse reactions to Leptospirosis vaccination

Leptospirosis is a “killed” vaccine. It’s also been called the “killer” vaccine because it is the #1 cause of adverse reactions in small dogs. They can have a severe allergic reaction to the Lepto vaccine, particularly younger dogs and small breed puppies.
In fact, this vaccine has a reputation for being the most likely
to cause reactions, also known as anaphylactic shock reactions (“anaphylactic” = allergic). These include:

  • vomiting
  • severe diarrhea
  • panting and wheezing
  • disorientation, dizziness
  • collapse

The #1 WORST vaccine for small dogs

And the award goes to …. the Leptospirosis vaccine.

It is often called the “killer” vaccine because it is the #1 cause of adverse reactions in small dogs.

Keep your Morkie safe without endangering his health

When does a Lepto vaccination make sense?




Does your small dog go wilderness camping or backwoods hiking with you? Roam on rural property, or drink deeply from creeks and streams? Not likely!

If this isn’t your dog’s lifestyle, this is one you can probably skip. Keep in mind though that at least one Vet supply website ( is warning Vets that they should continue to advise it for their clients’ pets – and to remind clients that even small dogs can come into contact with infected wild animal urine outside. Is this a scare tactic? I think so.


Given the risks, I personally would never get the shot for my small dog and I live in the country. Instead, stay alert to symptoms of the actual infection, and you can reduce the vaccination count by one at least.


A final note about Lepto

Today, the tests for actual Leptospirosis infection are much more accurate than ever and incidents of the illness are reported more frequently and accurately — compared to other illness which is registered probably between 1 and 10% of the time.

That and the new interest in this disease can make you think it’s an epidemic. It’s NOT.


FOR MORE INFORMATION, check out this excellent article by Dana Scott. 

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