Warm Winter To Blame for Increased Leptospirosis Cases

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Thanks to a warm winter, U.S. veterinarians are seeing an increased amount of leptospirosis cases. Here are some recommendations to help protect your pets.

In Paramus, New Jersey, more than 10 dogs were treated for leptospirosis they most likely contracted from drinking water contaminated with the bacteria. Leptospirosis, or lepto, is a potentially fatal infection and can be transmitted through the urine of infected wildlife, mainly rodents.

Related: Leptospirosis in Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know

Five dogs were treated at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, and two of the five died. Three dogs were treated at the Bergen County Veterinary Center and all survived; and three or more are being treated at Oradell Animal Hospital and their status is unknown. Tracy Horyczun, hospital administrator at BluePearl, says that the number of dogs they are seeing with Lepto is elevated for this time of the year. Lepto is not typically seen this early, but she believes the warmer winter much of the U.S. has experienced has given rise to the disease in wildlife animals.

The urine of infected animals such as rats or squirrels is the most common source of infection. It seeps into melting snow or rain–a dog on a walk may drink from the puddle and contract the potentially fatal disease.

Related: Warmer Winter Means Higher Risk of a Leptospirosis Outbreak

Veterinarians recommend a vaccine that covers multiple strains of the leptospirosis bacteria as most effective way to prevent your pet from contracting the disease. If pet owners forgo the vaccine, they should not allow their pets to drink standing water while outside or on walks.

If pet owners see signs of tiredness, red eyes, or chills in their pets, they should seek veterinary care immediately. Lab tests are needed to determine positive cases of lepto, and if untreated the infection can severely damage a pet’s organs, or even kill them.

Vets warn that humans can also catch the disease, but that the infected urine would have to go through the mouth, eyes or other exposed body part of a human for that to happen. Still, pet owners should also be cautious as they walk their pets. Person-to-person transmission of lepto is possible, though rare.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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