Editor’s Note: This is one pet owner’s experience. Please consult with your vet to discuss whether or not the leptospirosis vaccine is right for your dog.
Stefan, a Yorkie runt found on craigslist, was born in October 2010. I picked him up in South Jersey and the little runt started to rule my world. After lots of brunch dates and fashion-forward outfits, he is now living the happy healthy life he was meant to live as a NYC diva. In September 2017, he contracted leptospirosis and barely made it out alive. Leptospirosis is deadly, easily spread by rats that attacks a dog’s organs. It is especially prevalent in NYC. After 9 long days in the hospital (5 of those in the ICU) at the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in NYC, he made it out and now spreads awareness of the importance of the lifesaving vaccination. Here is his leptospirosis story.
Everyone meet Stefan, a NYC Yorkie, weighing 10 lb. on a good day, who is easily intimidated by other dogs since he is a runt. He lives in Manhattan, navigates the subway like a pro, is carried around in a koala pouch bag, demands a morning treat for waking up, and hates when you’re on your laptop and not petting him.
Stefan has a refined pallet at this point, he loves specific types of cheese, poke balls, and prosciutto. This is why when on Sunday September 3rd, he woke up lethargic and wouldn’t eat a cheese treat in the morning we got worried. He threw up the night before and in the morning as well, and when he wouldn’t eat his favorite meal we got extremely worried and rushed him to the Animal Medical Center in NYC.
We were there for a couple of hours and waited for his blood tests to come back, they asked us if he ever received the leptospirosis vaccine, and we had no idea what they were talking about. His blood work came with elevated liver and enzyme levels, indicating some sort of acute kidney injury. At that moment, he became a leptospirosis suspect and we had to leave him at the hospital.
Let’s take a little side note to learn about the Leptospirosis Virus.
Leptospirosis is an infection of bacterial spirochetes, which dogs acquire when subspecies of the Leptospira interrogans penetrate the skin and spread through the body by way of the bloodstream. Leptospires spread throughout the entire body, reproducing in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Infection of the liver or kidneys can be fatal for animals if the infection progresses, causing severe damage to these organs. Younger animals with less developed immune systems are at the highest risk for severe complications. The Leptospira spirochete bacteria is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Children are most at risk of acquiring the bacteria from an infected pet. 1 Leptospirosis is often transmitted through stagnant bodies of water where infected wild animals have urinated or defecated.2
Back to the story. Needless to say, after we read this and found out that each dog has about a 50/50 chance of survival after signs of disease we went into panic mode. That night we didn’t sleep, I just kept on asking Dr. Google all of the questions. In the morning on Monday I called AMC as soon as they opened and they told me he was moved to the ICU. I was beside myself and they told us we can visit at night.
We went at night, and unfortunately testing is extremely complicated so we would not know if he contracted it right away. Needless to say, he was separated from everyone else and you were unable to touch him without a gown and gloves. AMC took the appropriate measures and started treating him as a lepto patient right away.
Things got worse before they got better. He stopped eating, additionally, he doesn’t understand how WeeWee pads work, so he wouldn’t pee inside his cage however since lepto is spread as easily as snigging an infected dogs urine AMC could not bring him outside. The joke was on them when they tried to put a catheter in and he peed it out and peed all over anyone. “Great, the lepto dog is peeing everywhere now.” Regardless, they did put the catheter in to monitor how much urine he was producing. (You can make too much urine because of the disease before your kidneys fail and you stop producing urine.)
One of the days I got a call that it was close to a 40% chance of him making it. They told me that he might need dialysis and that might improve his chances if his kidneys completely give out. My girlfriend at that point had to take me out of work and sit with me on a random rock in Central Park as I bawled my eyes out. Stefan has been through it all with me, through a horrible sickness in the family, to me coming out. The dog was my rock and I was helpess, I ended up getting up and randomly showing up at AMC that day. The staff there was so understanding, and I knew they were doing everything in their power to save my fur baby.
The next day got better, he started regulating the amount of urine he was producing. The next day he got even better. It was 5 long nights of him being in the ICU, him having all of his little paws shaved, and not understanding why he has a feeding tube. On the 5th day when he got out of the ICU, we brought him mozzarella, prosciutto, and coconut water. He gobbled it all up like a champ. We knew at this point that the prognosis was looking much better.
This is when we found this could have all been avoided with a vaccine. Why did no previous vet tell us? Why did no one advertise this? Stefan got his shots every year, we not only went to vetco for his shots, but he also was at numerous vets who all saw all his medical records. We live in NYC, a plce populated by rats where our fur babies run around in dog parks. We knew we had to do something.
Needless to say, the posters were printed and rolls of scotch tape was bought. We reached out to numerous accounts and told them all to advertise our sign and to be aware for possible symptoms.
It worked, people reached out to us and a lot of people re-grammed the posters that were hanging and out PDF poster.
We were lucky enough, and the great team at AMC saved our dogs live. We are forever grateful, and want to do a huge shout out to Dr. Jasper Burke who is one of the most brilliant, kindest, and patients vets who were our babies strongest cheerleader and life saver and Dr. Elisa McEntee who monitored his case and his current primary vet. They are the real MVPs!
After 9 long days in the hospital, we were able to take our pup home. Now even more spoiled than before, we bought him a stroller and rolled him on home.
Please speak to your veterinarian about all of the risks and precautions regarding this and all vaccines.
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