As a Dog Owner, you’ve probably been concerned about the recent reports of leptospirosis in Australia. In the past year, we’ve seen more dogs suffering from this disease than ever before. In some very unfortunate cases, there have even been a few deaths. And while the reports of leptospirosis have subsided a bit in recent weeks, it’s still a good idea to be aware of what this dangerous disease is and how you can prevent it. We want to make sure this information is spread widely, so we’re sharing it with our community of Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters, and we encourage you to get the word out in your neighbourhood, too. Together, we can lower the risk for leptospirosis for our furry friends.
Leptospira and leptospirosis
Leptospira is the bacteria that leads to the disease leptospirosis. It can survive in a number of different locations: flood waters, puddles, ponds, mud, and other moist areas. It can also live in animal urine and animal tissues, with rodents being a major carrier of the bacteria.
Leptospira can be passed to animals and humans through open wounds or the membranes of the mouth, nose, or eyes. Exposure to boggy or wet areas or even just areas where there may be rodent droppings can lead to infection. You can see how a simple game of fetch in a wet field where the bacteria lives could put you and you pup at risk.
What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?
Unfortunately, the effects of leptospirosis are pretty swift, with some dogs succumbing to the disease within 48 to 72 hours of going to the vet. The early warning signs of leptospirosis are pretty subtle, and because leptospirosis has historically been so rare in our area, many Pet Owners are understandably unfamiliar with the signs.
Here are a few of the symptoms to watch out for:
- Lethargy or exhaustion
- Disinterest and quietness
- Haemorrhaging under the skin (bruising)
- Blood in the urine
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to get your dog to the vet.
Why are we seeing leptospirosis now?
Leptospirosis has never been a big issue in much of Australia. In fact, most vets wouldn’t recommend a leptospira vaccination before this year. So where did it come from?
Some news sources guess that recent construction and development in urban areas like Surry Hills, have created ideal circumstances for the bacteria to spread. On the one hand, excavation has disturbed the rat and mice dens, forcing them to look for new places to hide, like dog parks. At the same time, water runoff from projects like this can create stagnant puddles and ponds where the bacteria can grow.
In general, cities and neighbourhoods that struggle to maintain their rodent population are at higher risk for leptospirosis. And once it starts to spread, it can be difficult to get rid of the problem altogether.
What can we do about it?
As Pet Owners and Pet Sitters, there’s a lot that we can do to limit the spread of this disease. Here are a few of the steps that you can take to make sure your dog isn’t exposed to leptospira:
- Talk to your vet about whether the leptospira vaccine is right for your dog
- Avoid areas where there have been reports of leptospirosis (simply smelling the urine of a dog carrying leptospira could put your dog at risk)
- Keep you pup away from standing water
- Prevent your dog from digging or burrowing in any area where there may be rodents
- Keep your dog’s teeth clean with regular brushing
- Disinfect all toys and keep them in a dry place
It’s important to note, also, that leptospirosis is a disease that can, in some cases, be passed from animals to humans. If you follow our blog, you might remember us mentioning leptospira in our recent article on whether you should allow your dog to lick your face. In that article, we discussed how dogs can carry bacteria like leptospira in their saliva, putting you and your family at risk, as well. It’s good practice to wash your hands after coming into contact with your dog, and limit those doggie kisses.
We can all do our part to lower the risk of leptospirosis
With more knowledge about leptospirosis, you’re now in a good position to keep your dog safe and healthy. Stay up-to-date on the latest news about leptospirosis in your area, and share these best practices with your friends.