U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20472


FOR: Bill Brown
Operations Group Chair

FROM: Greg Waymon
Medical Working Group

SUBJECT: Canine Leptospirosis Vaccination for US&R Search Canines
Recommendation MED 2013-01

DATE: 8/7/2013


  • There is no system awareness regarding the increased need for Leptospirosis 24 vaccination in search canines



  • Currently, system canines are required to have core vaccines as published by the American Animal Hospital Association: Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper Virus,  Canine Adenovirus-2, and Rabies 1-year/3-year. There is a list of highly recommended non-core vaccines as published by the American Animal Hospital: Parainfluenza Virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme), and Leptospirosis vaccine.
  • The zoonotic nature (transmissible to humans) of this disease increases the risk level for human Task Force members should a system canine contract the disease and shed the organism in urine
  • Late summer to fall is the highest reported incidence of Leptospirosis, coinciding with the higher incidence of natural weather storms and potentially increases in US&R deployments.
  • In areas of flooding, standing pools of water, the risk is higher. System K9s may be deployed from an area where Leptospirosis is rare to an area that has higher incidence
  • Dogs in suburban or rural environments have been shown to be at increased risk of leptospirosis, presumably because of greater likelihood of contact with wildlife habitats. Wildlife within urban areas and domestic pets shedding the disease allow for occurrence within city areas as well.
  • No consistent or distinct geographic pattern for positive test results was observed in one study but seropositivity was greater in the mid-west, south-central, and northwest regions of the United States. One study had a cluster of reported cases during the 1990’s located in the Midwest. Another study out of Minnesota isolated the organism from 100% of streams, 65% of lakes, 28% of springs, 5% of bog lakes, and 0% of marsh tested.
  • Potential vaccine reactions are similar to other vaccines, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, local irritation, swelling, angioedema, and anaphylaxis. Incidence is similar to other vaccines (low) with the exception of a high incidence of acute anaphylactic reactions reported in toy breeds, puppies <12 weeks old. Methods for decreasing reactions include separating this vaccine delivery to the canine from the other vaccines and pre-treating with diphenhydramine.
  • This vaccine protects against the bacterial organism Leptospira interrogans. There are over 200 recognized serovars (subtypes) of the leptospirosis organism worldwide1. The vaccine may include serovars canicola, ictrtohaemorrhagiae, and also available with grippotyphosa and pomona. Different types are prevalent in different areas of the country. Some serovars detected by testing are not currently included in a vaccination form. This organism is often passed to dogs through contaminated water or soil. Carriers include rodents, skinks, raccoons, other dogs and people. Leptospirosis causes potentially fatal liver and/or kidney disease.
  • Efficacy – Protection for some of the serovars is reported to be 1 year; others may be only 6-8 months. High risk animals are recommended to be vaccinated twice per year.
  • Conclusions and clinical relevance in another study state the prevalence of leptospirosis among dogs examined at veterinary teaching hospitals in the United States and Canada has increased significantly since 1983. Male dogs of working and herding breeds were at greater risk.
  • Leptospirosis has recently been recognized as a re-emerging infectious disease among animals and humans and has the potential to become even more prevalent with anticipated global warming. ( http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/220563-overview)
  • The prevention of this potentially serious and fatal disease in both canines and human task force members is the driving force behind recommendation for the Leptospirosis vaccination



  • The Medical Work Group and Canine Subcommittee Work Group highly recommend annual Leptospirosis vaccination for certified system canines.

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