July 13, 2009
New York Dogs Hurt by Leptospirosis
June’s near-constant rains may have helped make some dogs in New York City critically ill. Local news outlets have been reporting that several otherwise healthy dogs are believed to have died in recent weeks from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted in several ways: through bites, contact with the urine of an infected animal, or exposure to contaminated soil, food or bedding.
Veterinarians at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital (BMAH) confirm that leptospirosis outbreaks do increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. City dog runs with poor drainage and a lack of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for the disease to flourish.
Fortunately, there is a leptospirosis vaccinetalk to your vet about whether vaccinating is a good idea for your dog. “Like other vaccines, there may be a higher rate of adverse reactions in small-breed dogs,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at BMAH. “The vaccine should be administered separately from other vaccinations and in two stagesone shot followed by a booster two or three weeks later.”
The ASPCA also urges dog owners to be on the lookout for the following symptoms: fever, vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy, coughing and labored breathing. Infected dogs may become jaundiced (yellowing of the eyes and skin) or stop urinating if the disease is severe. Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics, but prompt medical attention is vital as the disease can be fatal and can be transmitted to humans.
Furthermore, “when outdoorswhether at the dog run or by a ponddog owners must be vigilant about not letting their pets drink stagnant water,” warns Dr. Murray. “We recommend the leptospirosis vaccine, but don’t allow it to make you lax. Because there are many strains of the disease, vaccination does not guarantee absolute protection. Always bring fresh drinking water when you take your dogs on outings.”
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