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Clinical Presentation: Vomiting and Diarrhea

Mikey, a neutered 8-year-old male Jack Russell

Mikey had been vaccinated routinely including a 2-way leptospirosis vaccine (L. canicola, L. icterohaemorrhagiae). His most recent vaccination included the 4-way Leptospira bacterin, but he did not receive a booster of the 4-way bacterin. Therefore, he was not fully vaccinated against L. grippotyphosa and L. pomona. He presented 3 months after vaccination with vomiting (coffee grounds), diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, and jaundiced mucous membranes.
Blood tests indicated mild anemia and elevated white blood cell count. BUN and creatinine were within normal limits.
Twenty-four hours later, Mikey's clinical condition improved. However, his hypoalbuminemia and anemia worsened and there was no change in his ALT and total bilirubin. At the owner's request, Mikey was discharged from the hospital with amoxicillin and prednisone, but he died one week later.
Serology tests results indicated that leptospirosis was possibly the cause of Mikey's illness. Titers included the following: L. grippotyphosa, 1:1600; L. pomona, 1:400; L. canicola, 1:400; L. bratislava, 1:200; L. icterohaemorrhagiae, <1:100; and L. hardjo, <1:100.
CASE NOTE: Leptospirosis was not included in the initial rule-out list in the diagnostic workup. The delay in treatment coupled with shedding of leptospiral organisms provide adequate opportunity for the pathogens to spread to others. Signs of kidney disease should alert veterinarians to the possibility of leptospirosis infection.


This case demonstrates that:

  • Leptospirosis can cause liver disease, not just renal disease
  • Leptospirosis vaccines that contain only 2 serovars (L. canicola, L. icterohaemorrhagiae) do not provide cross-protection against L. grippotyphosa
  • A booster 2 to 4 weeks later is recommended even if previously vaccinated against L. canicola and L. icterohaemorrhagiae.
  • Infection can be fatal, even with appropriate therapy.


Lepto carriers can reside in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Take our risk assessment to see your dog's risk level.


Lepto is largely vaccine preventable. Most vaccines have 4 serovars to fight against today's most common serovars.


Read about real pets that were diagnosed with leptospirosis.