Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a disease caused by bacteria shed in the urine of infected animals. Splashes of infected urine or water can then enter other animals or humans through the nose, mouth, eyes, or cuts in the skin. Most mammals can be infected, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, horses, rats and, importantly, humans.
There are several types (strains) of lepto bacteria. Each type causes slightly different symptoms, which can range in severity in different animal species from no signs to severe illness.
Lepto disease in calves commonly appears as a sudden and severe disease with high death rates between 3 to 4 weeks of age. Calves may have fevers, red urine, and swollen abdomens, but are often simply found dead. Occasionally, calves at 2 to 3 months of age show signs of photosensitisation and damage to the skin and liver. In adult cattle, Copenhageni can occasionally cause abortions. Copenhageni is the most common cause of lepto in New Zealand dogs and can also cause severe disease in humans.
Ensuring herds are fully vaccinated prior to calving will help protect calves early in their lives. For calves, if vaccination is initiated early enough (first shot at 3-6 months of age (with booster 4-6 weeks later) we can prevent the formation of lepto “shedder” calves coming through into your herd. It is crucial that we are vaccinating calves early. The risk of them becoming exposed is greater during wet conditions.
If you have any questions regarding the best plan to keep your calves, herd and staff protected from lepto, feel free to contact your local Franklin Vets.