A dangerous bacterial disease has pet owners everywhere worried about the safety of their animals. Potentially deadly to both humans and canines, Leptospirosis is found across the country, and vets are diagnosing it more than ever. In a rare but lethal case, a New York City resident died last month after contracting the bacteria, which is often spread through animals’ urine.
While a rodent infestation caused this most recent tragedy, Leptospira also poses a danger to pets and their owners anytime they go outside. The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can live in contaminated water for weeks at a time, and enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or even a cut or scratch.
“Lepto, in my opinion, is the most important infectious disease that we deal with in dogs in the United States,” Dr. Richard Goldstein, a leptospirosis expert and Chief Medical Officer at the Animal Medical Center, told GoodHousekeeping.com. “It’s a common disease in most of the United States, and it causes significant mortality.”
According to Goldstein, vets used to treat Lepto as a lifestyle disease that only affected rural or hunting dogs. Now, it’s found all 50 states, and animal experts are testing for it more than ever. “It’s appearing in areas that previously haven’t had it,” he says. “The data that we have now suggests inner-city, urban dogs are just as likely to get Leptospirosis as dogs in rural communities, and small dogs are just as likely to get it as large dogs.”
For one Arizona woman, a stroll through her neighborhood led to the death of her pet. “It was so sudden,” owner Karen Pierce-Gonzalez told the Sonoma Index-Tribune. “Kada picked it up from standing water, which is everywhere.” Kada passed just two days after showing signs of acute kidney failure, so early detection is key.
Vets can treat Lepto with antibiotics before it causes kidney or liver failure, but there’s still a chance of permanent organ damage. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the disease first manifests as loss of appetite, vomiting, pain and increased thirst, but sometimes it shows no symptoms at all. To keep dogs safe, it’s all about the right prevention.
“You want your dog to be a dog; you want your dog to be able to have fun,” Goldstein says. “It’s not practical to say that dogs won’t to be exposed it. The better solution is vaccination.” Dogs should receive a vaccine Lepto every year, the AVAM advises. While the immunization doesn’t protect against every strain, it greatly reduces the risk.
To protect yourself, it helps to avoid potentially-contaminated water or animals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says. However, dogs have a much higher chance of contracting Lepto than humans, simply because they’re animals. “They’re just more likely to drink out of puddles and do stuff that people don’t do,” Goldstein explains. If you suspect your dog may have Lepto, take them to the vet immediately and agree to any tests that can confirm that diagnosis, he advises. While Leptospirosis isn’t a new disease, increased awareness can encourage more people to get their dogs vaccinated — and potentially save their lives.
source: WOMAN’S DAY