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Prevalence of serum antibodies against six Leptospira serovars in healthy dogs

Jennifer E. Stokes DVM, DACVIM1, John B. Kaneene DVM, MPH, PhD2, William D. Schall DVM, MS, DACVIM3, John M. Kruger DVM, PhD, DACVIM4, RoseAnn Miller MS5, Lana Kaiser MD, DVM6, and Carole A. Bolin DVM, PhD7
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  • 1 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 2 Center for Comparative Epidemiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 3 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 4 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 5 Center for Comparative Epidemiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 6 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314
  • | 7 Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314

Abstract

Objective—To determine the prevalence of antibodies against 6 Leptospira serovars and determine risk factors associated with positive Leptospira titers in healthy client-owned dogs in Michigan.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—1,241 healthy dogs at least 4 months of age.

Procedures—Dogs were examined by veterinarians at private practices. Vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs were enrolled in the study, which occurred prior to the availability of a 4-serovar (Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona) Leptospira vaccine. Sera were tested by use of the microscopic agglutination test to determine antibody titers against Leptospira serovars Bratislava, Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Hardjo, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona. A questionnaire was used to collect demographic information about each dog to identify risk factors associated with seropositive status.

Results—309 of 1,241 (24.9%) dogs had antibody titers against at least 1 of the 6 Leptospira serovars, which suggested exposure to Leptospira spp. Prevalence of antibodies was highest to serovar Grippotyphosa, followed by Bratislava, Canicola, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona. Age, travel outside Michigan, exercise outside fenced yards, and exposure to livestock and wildlife were significant risk factors for positive titers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Among healthy dogs from the lower peninsula of Michigan, > 20% have antibodies against leptospiral serovars historically considered uncommon but more recently incriminated as causing clinical canine leptospirosis. Wildlife and livestock may be of increasing importance as reservoirs for canine leptospirosis as urbanization continues to occur. Expanded vaccination strategies may partially mitigate these trends.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the prevalence of antibodies against 6 Leptospira serovars and determine risk factors associated with positive Leptospira titers in healthy client-owned dogs in Michigan.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—1,241 healthy dogs at least 4 months of age.

Procedures—Dogs were examined by veterinarians at private practices. Vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs were enrolled in the study, which occurred prior to the availability of a 4-serovar (Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona) Leptospira vaccine. Sera were tested by use of the microscopic agglutination test to determine antibody titers against Leptospira serovars Bratislava, Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Hardjo, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona. A questionnaire was used to collect demographic information about each dog to identify risk factors associated with seropositive status.

Results—309 of 1,241 (24.9%) dogs had antibody titers against at least 1 of the 6 Leptospira serovars, which suggested exposure to Leptospira spp. Prevalence of antibodies was highest to serovar Grippotyphosa, followed by Bratislava, Canicola, Icterohaemorrhagiae, and Pomona. Age, travel outside Michigan, exercise outside fenced yards, and exposure to livestock and wildlife were significant risk factors for positive titers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Among healthy dogs from the lower peninsula of Michigan, > 20% have antibodies against leptospiral serovars historically considered uncommon but more recently incriminated as causing clinical canine leptospirosis. Wildlife and livestock may be of increasing importance as reservoirs for canine leptospirosis as urbanization continues to occur. Expanded vaccination strategies may partially mitigate these trends.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Stokes' present address is Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37901-1071.

Dr. Kaiser's present address is Department of Medicine, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

Supported by the Companion Animal Fund, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University; and Fort Dodge Animal Health.

Presented in part as an abstract at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, Denver, May 2001.

Address correspondence to Dr. Schall.